The Moros c1900 (p.2)
Of all the aristocrats, the most politically powerful and significant were the datus (also spelled “datos,” “datoos,” or “dattoos” at that time in Spanish and English). The datu was accorded the right to act as “the law” in the community or region where he lived. This meant he was entitled to be judge, jury, and sheriff. He could also act as the “state” and “commander in chief” when it came to waging local war and creating alliances with other datus or entities. But there was a catch. One might inherit the title, but whether one was actually ever able to exercise its supposedly implicit power depended entirely upon personal charisma, reputation, and “hard power” (as determined by number of followers, wealth, stores of weapons, legal acumen, political skills) a datu could accumulate. There was no separate state authority in the Western or Middle Eastern sense to enforce recognition of and obedience to the title. Unless the datu had the wherewithal to enforce his own authority, subjects could vote with their feet, fail to render tribute, or simply turn a deaf ear. Unlike European landed nobility, weak datus rarely lasted. In many ways, the datu system was not that far removed from the bare-knuckle, nineteenth-century inner-city political bosses of the United States, who were their contemporaries.