Back to RJ Archive

Banana Justice in Moroland: Peacemaking in Mixed Muslim- Christian Towns in the Southern Philippines

Fields, Charles B
June 4, 2015

Source: (1996) Comparative Criminal Justice: Traditional and Nontraditional Systems of Law and Control, pp. 270-291, 1996, Charles B Fields and Richter H Moore, Jr, eds.

The project was conducted in the coastal province of Lanao del Norte, located in the northwestern corner of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, a mixed rural-urban region covered with banana and coconut plantations. Several highland towns are populated by Maranao (Muslim) Filipinos, whereas residents of the lowland coastal towns tend to be Cebuano or Hiligaynon (Christian). For centuries tempers have flared between the highland and lowland folk, who typify distinct cultures, separated by language and, to a large extent, socioeconomic status. The Muslim groups are poorer and represent a minority population in the province. Over the years they have been stereotyped as the inferior culture by the lowland peoples. Yet, for centuries trade and commerce have united the two regions, intermarriages have occurred, and members of the two groups have often competed for the same jobs. Several of the towns have sizable integrated communities. Local skirmishes and intermittent military-style clashes have erupted between the groups. To examine conflict-resolution procedures, this study conducted interviews with a wide range of Muslim and Christian adult men and women over a 5-month period. A second data-collection technique involved scrutiny of 2 years (1991-93) of issues of a small weekly newspaper. Conflict-resolution mechanisms typically involve informal means rather than the formal justice system. Sources of self-help usually begin with kin and are likely followed by compadreism (among Catholics), companionism (friendship cliques), and work-group associates. Private “fixers” may act as negotiators or mediators, but it is up to the victim to seek such operatives through word of mouth. A fixer’s effectiveness is related to persuasiveness, believability, and connections. It is clear that as confidence in the government system of justice declines, a reliance on private and informal networks of control increases.


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now