Lidasan: The modern datu

Mussolini S. Lidasan


IN the past few days, I have been asking myself a certain question. I wonder, who can we best describe as a modern day “datu” in Maguindanao? By the word datu, I mean someone who has the bloodline to the Datus of old, someone with the strong leadership and political will, and above all, someone whose word is his bond. We had him in the form of my late Bapa Datu Ombra Q. Sinsuat, former mayor of the municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

This humble and strong leader of Maguindanao was the brother of Bapa Datu Bimbo Q. Sinsuat (Provincial Board member of Maguindanao) and Bapa Datu Roonie Q. Sinsuat (Congressman of the 1st district of Maguindanao and Cotabato City). He was the father of my brother-in-law, Datu Lester S. Sinsuat (Vice Governor of Maguindanao).

Looking at his political career, he was the undefeated and uncontested mayor of his town. He summed up his decades of success in politics following the three principles. I learned his principles in leadership during my frequent and short conversations with him, and they were: Always remember that your word is your bond; respect your elders and give what is due to your people; and, respect your ‘qadr’ or ‘qadar.’ Qadr is the concept of divine destiny in Islam, and something that we take very seriously.

Always remember that your word is your bond. He lived by these words, and he always followed through with it. Every local and national politician knows this. This principle is close to the heart of every Muslim. The verses of the Holy Qur’an and the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) indicate that fulfilling promises and covenants is obligatory, and ulama point to abhorrence of the sin of the one who breaks them or fails to fullfil them. The Qurán says, “And fulfil (every) covenant. Verily! The covenant will be questioned about” [al-Isra’ 17:34].

I have witnessed many conflict, rido and problems in Maguindanao where Bapa DOS was the one who settled them. All parties in conflict were satisfied by his rulings and conflict mediation and resolution.

“Respect your elders and give what is due to your people” is another statement that defines him. He spent his life with the people in the community and the traditional leaders in Dinaig (the old name of Datu Odin Sinsuat municipality). He made sure that old traditions were celebrated and practiced. He also encouraged the young generations of the Sinsuat clan to be involved with our roots and history.

Lastly, he also imbibed “respect your “qadr” or “qadar.” His career in politics came a little later compared to his other siblings. Thus, his destiny in politics was considered by our clan as a divine intervention to unite the families and communities in Dinaig.

In Maguindanao, if leadership is judged by political space, influence, and support from the people, Bapa DOS was a true leader throughout his long career in politics. His children and relatives now hold key positions in the province and in the BARMM. His legacy as a leader will live beyond his generation, and is an example for all of us to follow.