Datu Kinoc, B’laan, peacemaker; 66
DATU Antonio Kinoc would always tell his people, the B’laan, and Christian settlers in his village in Mangga that the road to peace was similar to the one that led from their farming community to Matanao, Davao del Sur province.
“In the early days, it could not even be considered a road, but we get home. It eventually became paved and our travel became easier,” Kinoc’s neighbor, Bartalome Villar, remembered him say.
“It may still be bumpy these days but soon, it will be concreted and our travel will become smoother.”
Kinoc, 66, or simply known as Tony in the neighborhood, represented the indigenous peoples (IP), or “lumad,” in the peace negotiating panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). On May 3, he died of liver cancer in Sarangani province.
He would always speak of how important peace was to development, Villar said. There can be no real development if people are quarreling, he would say.
“He hated quarreling, that’s why he had no known enemies,” Villar said.
He best remembered Kinoc as the man who tried hard to make life easier for the people of Mangga. Even if Kinoc was not wealthy, he would lend farmers money to buy fertilizer.
“They could barely pay him but he did not care. It was as if helping was so natural for him,” Villar said.
Anthony Earl Jervis, or Janjan, the eldest of Kinoc’s four children and the only son, said his father’s love for peace and the B’laan people was also evident in how he raised them.
“He would tell us that conflict was just a waste of time. That it only caused stress,” he recounted.
This was also perhaps the main reason his father always cracked jokes and made people laugh. “He earned many friends because of his jokes,” Janjan said.
Anne Princess, one of Kinoc’s daughters, said their father always reminded them that fairness bred peace. “Be magnanimous to your siblings and others,” she recounted her father as telling them.
“He never got angry. If somebody committed a mistake, he would give sound advice but never admonish anybody for their shortcomings,” Anne Princess said.
The pursuit of peace was the main reason Kinoc spent more time traveling and being far from his family.
Janjan recounted that when they moved to Manila when he was in third grade, his father remained in Mindanao, moving from village to village to convince the B’laan and the other lumad to support the peace process, which was then being pursued by the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“He would just show up and spend quality time with us. No politics,” Janjan said.
As a member of the MNLF peace panel, Kinoc would rally the indigenous peoples by saying that there was no substitute for peace.
Once, Kinoc told journalists in Davao del Sur that he would often be mistaken for a Muslim because of his staunch support for the government-MNLF peace process. “I’m a B’laan, neither a Muslim nor a Christian,” he said.
When the peace agreement with the MNLF was finalized in 1996, Kinoc became a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But as soon as the peace process with the MILF started, he readily joined the MILF peace panel and became part of the IP delegation.
He never skipped any hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, according to Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, and would tell the IP, especially those opposing the proposed law, that “it doesn’t mean that when we are part of [the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity], we will be Islamized or that the MILF will govern us over our land.”
“The Bangsamoro doesn’t refer to Muslims only but also to non-Muslims living in Mindanao, including Christians and IP,” Kinoc clarified. “I belong to the B’laan tribe and I am a proud Bangsamoro,” he said in one of the hearings.
When he became ill, Kinoc made himself scarce from the public but was not out of touch as he still sent out text messages, mainly jokes.
Even on his death bed, he was certain that peace was at hand.
“He did not want to be brought to the hospital,” Janjan said.
Kinoc will be buried near the tombs of his parents here on May 12.
“[He] will be a big loss to the peace process and especially to the indigenous peoples whom he had valiantly fought for not only in words but with persistent, consistent and dedicated acts of service,” Arnado said.