www.sunstar.com.ph, 16 January 2009
By Atty. Billy Aportadera
Of Rights and Duties
PEACE initiatives in MIndanao received a big boost on January 14, 2009.
The Ateneo de Davao University in cooperation with Bridges (Dialogues Towards A Culture of Peace) brought to Davao City 1996 Nobel Laureate for Peace winner, H.E. Professor Jose Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste.
Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo
With the ongoing Mindanao armed conflict as backdrop, the Nobel Peace Awardee shared experience in initiating peace in his home country, Timor-Leste. His dialogue centered on the question, "Is Long Lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?"
He answered his own question in the affirmative. For him, peace is attainable, reachable. But the road to peace is long and precarious. One can have sincere intentions, however, if the other party is not sincere, efforts towards attaining peace would be hindered.
He cited a dialogue with a rebel leader. He asked the rebel leader to help him secure peace in their country for the sake of his family and children. The Nobel Peace Awardee was rebuked. The rebel leader said he did not care for his family and children; he cared only for the people.
To this, he replied that if the rebel leader could not care for his family, his wife and children who had been with him for a long time, the rebel leader could not care for the people who were generalities and with whom he had no personal experience.
During the open forum, he was asked if there was a direct correlation between developmental aid and peace. The more money given to a strife stricken country as developmental aid, the more chances for peace.
According to the Nobel Peace Awardee, this is partly true. This would be true if most, if not all, of the money reached the beneficiaries. In other words, if development aid is not corrupted or stashed away by scrupulous people.
The Dialogue for Peace ended in high hope. The final question from a 21-year old co-ed bought out the high point from H.E. Ramos-Horta.
If all else fails, would cessation be the fulfillment of the exercise of self-determination of a people? H.E. Ramos-Horta explained that the right to self-determination is not a debatable right of a people. But he further explained that the right to self-determination would not as a matter of course lead to territorial cessation.
At this point, H.E. Ramos-Horta outlined his program for peace. First, secure the humanitarian and human rights of the civilian caught in the crossfire between government forces and rebel forces. Once secured, the people concerned should be allowed autonomy within the framework of the existing political and social system. This would mean withdrawal of government occupying forces and the giving of economic opportunities to the autonomous government, which was deprived from them during the period of armed conflict. The experience of governing would provide the people the motivation to self-rule or to remain within the existing political system.
For H.E. Ramos-Horta, if the three stages are successful hurdled, peace would be attainable and reachable.
[Attorney Abelardo "Billy" Aportadera Jr., former Commissioner on Human Rights and former Assistant Ombudsman, is a practicing lawyer and a member of Philconsa, E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web address: http://billyaportadera.com]
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(January 16, 2009 issue)
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