The Center-Periphery Notion of Nation-Building – Franchised Violence and the Bangsamoro Question in the Philippines

32 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2011

See all articles by Ariel Macaspac Penetrante

Ariel Macaspac Penetrante

Institute for Infrastructure and Resources Management

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Date Written: June 11, 2011


While calling for the re-visitation of the academic discourse on the conflict in Southern Philippines, this paper explores why peace agreements resulting from mediated negotiation are not capable in ending violence in the country. In various cases, peace negotiations may actually promote an environment prone to violence. Violence remains a legitimate instrument to protect the nation’s hegemonic bureaucracy. Because violence acquires legitimacy only when it serves its purpose, the analysis of the functionality of violence becomes necessary. What happens when it ceases to fulfill its appropriated function? Charles Tilly (1985) and Hannah Arendt (2009a; 2009b) argue that the functionality of violence lies in its role in ensuring social cohesion. Tilly’s analogy of war-making and state-making implies that organized means of violence is indeed necessary in establishing national states. This paper argues that the primordial reference of framing inter-group relations promotes an environment prone to violence.

The Bangsamoro question in the Philippines involves 13 Muslim ethno-linguistic groups striving for self-determination through armed insurgency in the last 40 years. It represents an interesting analytical case study to understand how violence is legitimized in the process of state (de)construction. This paper argues that the legitimization of violence moves within nation-building defined by primordial social relations. Nation-building equates the centralization of consensus-building process. Centralization as the principle that drives nation-building seeks to establish hierarchical bureaucratic structures to effectively ensure social stability. However, the same notion of system stability means subordination policies for those groups that do not meet the membership criteria formulated by the center. Groups at the periphery are exposed to the consequences of centralized decision-making: minoritization, land-grabbing, and ethnic-cleansing. The introduction of taxonomy of violence: direct, structural, and symbolical allows the understanding of the processes through which violence fulfills a purpose.

Furthermore, this paper analyzes an interesting practice of the center to contain potential contenders in the periphery: divide and control. This rather new phenomenon involves the distribution of the legitimate use of violence by the Philippine State to local “political warlords” through an informal mechanism of franchising. The Philippine State has no real intention to monopolize violence, because this resignation is an outcome of a pragmatic political deliberation. Franchising violence to local political warlords and private security firms is perceived to be more appropriate. The Philippine state-building therefore involves the invalidation of the Westphalian state through the outsourcing of violence. This development, however, is an impediment to resolve the Bangsamoro question, because of the new dynamics that this practice has brought particularly to Mindanao.

The resolution of the Bangsamoro question requires the re-visitation of the discourse on what the Philippine nation is. Violence does not arise through the idea of nation-building, but rather through the hierarchical relationships resulting from nation-building.

Suggested Citation

Penetrante, Ariel Macaspac, The Center-Periphery Notion of Nation-Building – Franchised Violence and the Bangsamoro Question in the Philippines (June 11, 2011). IACM 24TH Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Ariel Macaspac Penetrante (Contact Author)

Institute for Infrastructure and Resources Management ( email )

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Leipzig, Saxony 04109

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