Tribal Peacemaking: Proposed Strategies and Skills by Pastor Ao-as

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Tribal Peacemaking: Proposed Strategies and Skills


[Note: Pastor Ao-as is a Lutheran evangelist from the Basao tribe of Tinglayan, Kalinga. Pastor Ao-as actively involved himself in the socio-cultural affairs of the Kalingas, serving his people in ways unbeknownst to many. Along with Gus Saboy, he brokered in the early 1980s a lasting peace pact between the Butbut and Sumadel tribes. In this article, he shares (originally with the Peace and Order Council of then Kalinga-Apayao) the insights they learned from this experience. The resolution of the conflict was a much welcome development at the time given the fact that earlier, the New Peoples Army and the Philippine military both failed in their attempts to mediate between the warring tribes. Having no ideological baggage to bring to the negotiation table and proving themselves earnest in their peace mission, Pastor Ao-as and Mr. Saboy led the forging of a tribal peace that lasted for many years. — Scott Magkachi Saboy]

I thank the Chairman, Hon. Governor Amado B. Almazan, and all the members of the Peace and Order Council (POC) of Kalinga-Apayao for this opportunity to express some of my personal observations on the most sensationalized issue — the so-called Tribal War in Upper Kalinga; and to put into writing my proposals addressed to the problems as guiding materials as we work together as members of the POC.

We shall use two criteria in looking at the issue(s) affecting us:  First, we must accept we do have some unusual killings in some areas of the Province, and secondly, we must recognize that there are at least some solutions to the tribal problems.

I should mention here that these opinions cannot be completely good or completely bad (since neither God nor the Devil wrote it but only Luis Ao-as!)

Understanding Tribal Conflict and Conflict Intervention

Essential to waging peace is an understanding of the issue and knowing how to intervene.  The following analysis is drawn from my experiences with Mr. Augustus U. Saboy during our negotiation of peace pact between Sumadel and Butbut in June 1981.

The approach also is useful in understanding peacemaking on the tribal differences of other tribes in Kalinga-Apayao.  This has become clear in my observations from the different elders of Kalinga using similar strategies and skills in their activities in solving some of the tribal feuds.

Conflict is a natural and an inevitable part of all human social life.  It arises from a number of sources and is dealt with in a variety of ways by social systems — families, churches, and whole communities as well as concerned government agencies.

Tribal war is unique in itself.  It is out of human pride strengthened by traditional custom of a group of people.  Killing is just a manifestation of this custom ingrained in the lives of people.  It is called revenge.

To intervene in a tribal conflict implies the ability of individuals and organizations to (1) understand its sources (traditional customs) and direction, (2) know how to select goal(s) for intervention, and (3) systematically develop strategies and skills for perusing those goals.

The traditional custom of revenge is the central reality around which social conflict occurs among the Kalingas.  To revenge is to gain some kind of social status in the Kalinga system which at this time is upheld by many people in Kalinga.  Not to revenge is degraded by some, if not by the majority, of the Kalinga society.

An Analysis of Roles

Intervention in a tribal conflict is the deliberate and systematic entering into the situation by an outside or semi-outside party or parties (persons or group of neutral parties) with the aim of guiding and leading the warring tribes to solve their own tribal problems.  All interventions alter the power configuration of the situation; therefore, all intervention is advocacy.

All interventions begin with a goal — or at least a conception of what to expect.  By merely entering a conflict situation because of pity is disastrous and spells failure.

The type of roles intervenors typically play in conflict situations are: Advocate, Mediator, and Tactful Enforcer.

Strategies for Conflict Intervention

Any intervenor has a range of objectives he might choose to pursue.  One’s strategy for intervention is determined primarily by the objectives chosen for intervention.  Once the potential intervenor has examined his skills and has established goals for intervention, an appropriate role and strategy is selected.

Selecting a strategy rarely follows this kind of formal or rational process, of course. Third-party individuals and organizations often are thrust into a conflict situation without systematic examination of their goal(s) for the outcome of the conflict, and without careful consideration of intervention strategies.  This is true of community mediators as well as Peace Officers or Peacemaking forces.

There are at least a few factors which may determine good strategies in pursuing peace goal(s) or objectives in a tribal conflict intervention:

1. Having a good purpose which may benefit and be accepted by both warring tribes.

2. Knowing the problems: It is a common mistake by a negotiator, counselor, and tribal leader to assume that he knows the problems of the people by merely hearing information form different people; or relying on his past experiences. Ignorance of the subjects/problems is evil and paralytic.  There is no substitute for understanding the real issue before trying to intervene in tribal problems.

3. Giving recognition and high respect to the tribal leaders in the community:  It is extremely important to give due respect to old men an the barrio officials because they are the key people who can convince the few who are against  the decision of the majority.

4. To identify good regional leaders from neutral tribes: Regional leaders from other tribes are indispensable in solving tribal problems.  They are the best advisers of their fellow tribal leaders should they be reluctant to give their own decision in public.

5. Decision-making: It is a fact among the Kalingas that decision from outside being employed for the people may be temporarily successful or appear to be so but it is doomed to failure.  The best decision is according to their own culture and customs which involves all the people in the community to express their own opinions.  It is a consensus type of decision which everybody can honor, uphold, and respect without written documents to refer to after the agreement is made by all the people in the community.

In so doing, intervenors should avoid would-be-peacemakers whose interests revolve around money and other personal interests.  They will spoil the consensus-type decision from both warring tribes.

Skills of the Tribal Conflict Intervenor

There are certain skills that any conflict intervenor needs to master to be effective — regardless of his values, roles, strategic approach, or level of the conflict in the social system.  Most intervenors will be utilizing these skills sometime during their work in a specific conflict situation.  The skills themselselves, however, are not tied to any particular role type or strategy.

1. Self-Analysis. Of the most critical skills for any successful intervenor is the ability to assess one’s own position, skills, potentials, and limitations vis-a-vis any dispute.  Unless the potential intervenor can clearly see himself as a facilitator with certain characteristics of understanding attitudes, it is impossible to keep the intervention in appropriate perspective.

Good intervenors possess certain personality traits: (a) flexibility, or the ability to keep options open yet uncompromising to one’s goal(s) and yet not rigidly committed to any one process or solution); (b) delay or denial gratification — a successful intervenor must be willing to let the parties take credit for any solutions achieved and to inhibit any tendency to “give the right answer” just because he perceives it at any given moment in the conflict scenario;  and (c) ability to avoid counter-dependence — once helping relationships have been established, “professionals” often have a difficult time withdrawing, so knowing when not to intervene and when to get out are crucial abilities.

2. Situational Analysis. No intervention can be intelligently planned until the intervening person or agency has a comprehensive picture of the socio-cultural system in which the conflict is set: peace pact institution, cultural traditions, issue, parties, etc.

3. Communication Skills.  The ability to think positively, and to speak the language is essential.  Control of emotions and their effect also is essential.  Not only are skills of personal presentation required but sills for facilitating communication among disputing parties (or factions within parties) and in communicating truth also are critical.

4.Negotiating. Effective negotiation requires the ability to advocate a consensus-type of decision from both warring tribes.

5. Mediating.  Assisting the process of decision-making of the warring tribes requires the ability to facilitate, creating forums for bargaining, arranging meetings, and enabling face-saving.

6. Counseling. Decision-makers in tribal conflicts and crisis situations often need quite good counsel regarding the dilemmas and decisions they face.  The skilled and respected intervenor can play this sounding board role with almost any of the parties in a given conflict depending on his level of judiciousness as perceived by the parties, regardless of formal intervention base.

7. Implementing solutions.  In the present situation, intervenors often are asked to help shape the details of a solution and ask also to assist in the implementation.  Among them are program developments or projects in their own community.

Effective and just conflict intervention requires a combination of (a) uncompromised understanding of cultural power which may weaken the desired consensus-type of decision making, (b) clear perception of the intervenor’s roles, potentials and limitations, and (c) tactfulness on the part of the intervenor in his dealings with people and information.

The strategic sensitivities and technical skills outlined here are best required by highly disciplined persons who understand these points, who have the credibility and the experience to take risk in working for tribal peace pact in conflict situations, and who are willing to learn predominantly in the field rather than in the conference room.

Intervening for Peace

Intervention has come to connote the militaristic actions against the warring tribes.  This article has intended to show that intervention is a much broader and more general concept — that it refers to the attempts of third parties to facilitate consensus among the warring tribes.  When the desired outcome is sought, active peacemaking becomes a reality.

Skilled Negotiations

It is extremely important that the POC develop negotiators capable of effective negotiation abilities with the different warring tribes in Upper Kalinga.  This has not yet been done.  Almost every administration puts into the field people without any negotiating experience, people who are full of good will but whose priority is to receive honoraria, and who repeat the same mistakes, even though the record is so rich.  It is equally important that the different government agencies coordinate in promoting peace and order in their own offices by serving the people with genuine concern. For without peace and order, progress will be hampered and unnecessary killings will be perpetuated in the Province.

Specific Recommendations for Action

1. POC to support the Bodong Federation to convene another Bodong Conference in Upper Kalinga.

2. POC to launch a Peace Crusade in Upper Kalinga and have dialogue with the people.

3. POC to tie up peacemaking in the implementation of government programs in the different tribes in Kalinga.

4. POC to facilitate coordination of different government agencies and private sectors to help one another in the preservation of Peace and Order in the Province.

5. POC to implement its plans and objectdives aimed at restoring inter-tribal peace.  (This may require a change of policies and even amendments to the established S.O.P.

6. POC to identify and use capable regional tribal leaders to help in the restoration of severed peace pacts.

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