The Philippine Justice system is composed of at least 3-strand systems duly recognized by the state. Aside from the regular court, it recognizes the tribal justice system for the Indigenous People (IP) and the Sharia’h system for the Muslims. These three operating justice systems are also embodied in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in recognition of the existing different cultures in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Yet to be explored and to maximize its value is an alternative justice system in conflict resolutions-the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This system is a combination of indigenous, cultural-based and creative approaches to resolving conflict and dispute without the intricacies of court proceedings. ADR “refers to any method of resolving disputes without litigation”. In the Philippines, the bill on ADR is still being discussed in the congress but in many areas of the country, especially in remote villages, this method is already widely used.
“As one participant observed, “the ADR has been used and applied many years ago in almost all areas in the BARMM and even throughout the country and found to be an effective way of restoring peace in the community, this is a restorative approach compared to the regular justice system we have in the country today which is divisive and punitive”.
One of the observed encumbrances in the regular court proceedings is the length of time spent in litigation due to heavy caseloads. It also entails big expenses. The other existing justice systems in the Bangsamoro are those run clandestinely by groups and by some traditional leaders. Their approach to resolving conflicts is basically arbitration where they, as the third party, arbitrarily impose settlement of disputes.
ADR on the other hand, as experienced in many instances, is less costly, less-time consuming and delays, less formal and more flexible than court proceedings. The parties involved have the choice of selecting a third-party mediator/arbitrator. It is less adversarial and it helps to preserve relationship between opposing parties. The process is done in greater privacy than court allows.
The Support to the Transition project (SUBATRA) in the BARMM which is supported by EU-AECID considers ADR as an option in resolving conflicts between different cultural groups who could not agree to any of the three justice systems. The ADR works in many countries of the world. In the Philippines, the most common types of ADR are negotiation, conciliation, mediation and arbitration.
The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a co-implementer of the SUBATRA project through the support from AECID-EU started the process of promoting ADR in an initial Training of Trainers held in Davao City in July 2022 for thirty two (32) lead and co-lead conveners of CBCS-led NGOs in the 5 provinces of the BARMM.
The objective of the said activity was to capacitate community leaders to be an effective local mediators and conciliators using contextualized ADR practices and processes present in the community. Its primary purpose is to improve people’s accessibility to justice system by making the ADR practice functional and institutionalized in various areas of the BARMM and to eventually help lessen the numbers of violent conflicts. The project is targeted to capacitate at least 300 ADR practitioners in the BARMM in 3 years’ time.
The Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM), a research unit of MSU-Main campus in Marawi city and a partner of CBCS in the SUBATRA project facilitated the 2-day training using inputs from their wide research on the issue of ADR. The training also included input from Islam on ADR.
Many practical experiences particularly those community-based conflicts in various areas of the BARMM were shared during the workshop which has become an important input in the improvement of the ADR manual.
The trained CSO leaders will start to roll out on a cascading basis the training to the community to capacitate leaders who will eventually serve as mediators of conflict in their respective areas. More trainings are in the loop to further strengthen the capacity of the community leaders as mediators, arbitrators and conciliators as well as negotiators.
The CBCS, by promoting ADR, is doing a small share of contribution to make peace thrive in the communities. As a peace-based CSO, we put our heart and passion towards working for peaceful transition and good governance in the Bangsamoro.