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Sunday, 28 June 2015 06:27



By Jess G. Dureza


When I saw him last week in his Roxas Blvd office in Metro Manila, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. was looking well. But I soon found out why he sent "Zandro", his 21-year old son, an Oxford London student who was on school break to read his speech at a Manila university the day before.
( Zandro was a "hit" by the way to the young university students.) 'Bonggets' -- his friends usually call him -- had stomach problem and had been subsisting on water and hot tea. But he was otherwise in his usual high spirits. We had a good chat for over an hour.


FIRST SIGHT --    Flashback. I was a young Davao journalist then in the mid 70s during Martial Law after I passed the  1973 Philippine Bar exams. I joined a delegation from the Davao media  to Malacanang to meet  then President Marcos who was reclusive due to his ailment. That was the first time I spotted young Bongbong who was unobtrusibly  standing in a corner  by the window curtains just watching closely what was going on. My take then was that he was closely looking after his father who was just seated on a chair talking to us.  Every time FM would take a glance towards his back,  as if wanting something, the young son would oblige. Then he would return back to his corner.


FRIENDS --  Fast forward. When I was Davao Congressman from 1992 to 1995,  "'Bonggets' "  was Ilocos congressman. Although we were colleagues, we did not bond much as close friends while working  in the Batasan. He was seated up front and I was in the back row. Having humble beginnings and as   a "probinsyano" reporter, the Marcos family was a distant star from my own ordinary world  down south.       However,  it was when a congressional committee of which we were both members (together with then Congressmen Ralph Recto, Oscar Orbos, etc) came to Davao and stayed at our family owned Seagull Beach Resort in Punta Dumalag that I got to know more about him.

Before last week's chat, the last time we met was in November, 2013 when we disembarked at the  Manila airport together from an international flight from Frankfurt, Germany (after my wife Beth got her second fresh stem cell infusion from Villa Medica for her kidney problem). 'Bonggets' was with wife, Lawyer Liza (nee Araneta) and yes, "kodakan" even at the tube area.


"LOW-KEY & SHY" --   More recently, when the Mamasapano incident broke out and the issue about the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) broke the headlines, "BBM" (that's his cryptic initials that his staffers and co-workers refer to him) was enthused about how he could be of help but as low key as possible. Unknown perhaps to many,   he was known for being "shy" about publicity and would prefer to just quietly do his work. But the BBL issue was something he could not duck and must grapple with as he was chair of the committee tasked to handle it for the Senate.  Suddenly, he was thrust to the center of the public eye, a scenario he did not relish much --- a task that if mishandled  would be very divisive, sensitive and explosive.    But which he must do.


HIS DREAMS --   During our chat last week, he intimated that due to the intense polarization of the pro and anti BBL factions,  he would be in a no - win situation. Nonetheless.  But his formula, from how it looks, does not however kow-tow to what is preponderantly popular or what the gallery wants. It's definitely NOT  about  "playing to the gallery." He wants to do justice to the task and to the Bangsamoro as well.  He personally led Mindanao-wide consultative meetings on the ground and met and heard the views of  all stakeholders, especially those who were excluded from the earlier engagements. He dreams of an inclusive and sustainable legal framework for the Bangsamoro.


DOING RIGHT. -- He tersely said: " I want to do what is right to be able to help the Bangsamoro. I could just let things pass as they are and not at all lift a finger. But from where I sit, there is still a lot of work and  refinement to be done to make the BBL compliant to our basic law. There are sacrosanct parameters that must be observed; there are the lines we all  ought not to cross. Otherwise, we are not doing our Bangsamoro justice; we are again misleading them and  denying them the aspirations they have all dreamed of for so long".


VINDICATION -- Yes, he is agonizing over accusations by some sectors that he is resorting to  alleged "delatory moves" in the Senate,  missing timelines and watering-down the BBL. He said that if there is anyone who should be blamed for some delay, it is Malacanang, for the length of time it worked on a revised BBL after the Bangsamoro transition commission submitted its finished work. Malacanang "embargoed"  it ostensibly to review but what came out was still a non-compliant version. he added that if  there is some more  blaming to do, the OPAPP must explain why it gave in to demands that clearly crossed lines that not anyone of us is allowed to do.

He said he was not surprised by some quarters tagging him as "anti-Moro" but he said the final output of his work will vindicate him and "prove them wrong". So far, he has done great efforts, listening and consulting. Let's see how this ends.


LOVES MUSIC --  'Bonggets', although nurtured by a "princely world", has his two feet on the ground, so to speak. His is a  well-rounded personality and can easily  de-stress himself. He loves music and as a musician, he plays the saxophone and the flute. He dotes on his 3 boys, all studying in London whom he and his wife Liza assiduously protect from the public eye. As I said earlier, the debut of  vacationing "Zandro" in public reading his father's speech with some faltering Tagalog due to his Londoner accent must be a desperate option, the ailing senator not wanting to be a "no show" to the expectant university students. (Zandro's video appearance posted by some netizens has gone viral, by the way.!Liza is  a practicing lawyer at the MOST Law firm in Manila.  (For the curious, the "M" there obviously is because of her and yes,   the "O" is for Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa who is "on leave" and the "T" is for my friend Atty. Joseph Tan who is married to a Dabawenya daughter of the pioneering Garcia-Montemayor family). Liza comes from the prominent Araneta family and hence a close relative of another Araneta scion, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. As they say: 'it's a small world!"


COMING OF AGE -- We will hear a lot more of 'Bonggets', I am sure.  As some say, he is  "coming of age" and is no longer basking in the shadows of his illustrious father, Ferdinand, Sr. whom I know he idolizes and looks up to with unending admiration.



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Tuesday, 16 June 2015 07:22



By Jess Dureza

Many have now serious doubts about the future of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) given Congress' failure to pass it on time.

I have a few thoughts I wish to share, coming from my modest work in the peace process. For instance, I found out that those who know what BBL is all about -- and why it has to be passed-- are somehow supportive. Those who don't and those who entertain  "fears" oppose it.  Otherwise put, those who do not know why we have to redress an injustice and address a generational grievance of the Bangsamoro are generally against it and must therefore be enlightened to be convinced.  Exorcising what haunts many is a must. There's a lot more work to be done in this, I can tell. Perhaps, today's hiatus is an opportunity.


HAND OF PEACE -- I have this thought going through my mind: we may no longer have the same strategic opportunity at another time if we let this slip through our hands. For instance, here's the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a rebel group   that has publicly offered to partner with government; it has publicly expressed that it is forsaking the ways of violence and terrorism at a time when somewhere else in the Muslim world, some bad guys are flaunting and trumpeting their barbaric ways.  That alone should move all of us to accept this proffered hand of peace. To turn away from it is sheer folly. Of course, we want to see MILF 's public avowals put to test by realities on the ground.  Given the prevailing distrust spawned by unfortunate events and lessons of the recent past, this is not easy. The interregnum period should be put to good use to do this.

Yes, there are trust and confidence issues that have to be addressed. There are also stringent and sacrosanct perimeters that must be observed.


BIGOTRY -- That this has been a divisive issue is a given.  The lively and insightful debate can continue. But bigotry on all sides has no place in this spirited discourse. A "bigot", by the way, is one who stubbornly shuns and exhibits complete intolerance of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from his own.    To call our peace negotiators "traitors" is way below the gutters. It smacks of political grandstanding, which in the onset of the political season is perfectly understandable but definitely not acceptable and tolerable. On the other hand, to label those against the BBL as "anti Moro" is also a pure and simple act of bigotry.   We should relegate all those bigots to the ignominy of the stinking garbage dump where they properly belong. (Pardon the strong language but I mean every word of It.)!

Although we understand the big disappointment, bordering on anger of those who support the Bangsamoro, saber rattling or the threat of war will not work. It will only create a backlash.  Let us not begrudge Congress for doing due diligence. Let us also not take it against all those who raise the alarm. When the smoke clears, the bottom line for us is to really pass a law that is inclusive and sustainable; we badly need a legal framework to address that oft-quoted but not-too-well-understood "Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination”.  Let us moderate our angst. Ultimately, with need a law that is robust and can pass the test of constitutionality and time. Missing timelines is indeed dampening but it should not derail the peace train. The journey for peace must ultimately unite and not divide us all.


CRISIS -- If there is a crisis now facing the Aquino administration on how to win support in the predominantly unbelieving and unsupportive mainstream public on the BBL, there is also an equally critical situation within the MILF given the missed expectations of a failed BBL amongst the Bangsamoro.  I am not surprised if there is a brewing and serious challenge now for the MILF leadership, headed by Kagi Murad, on how to internally convince its followers to also "stay the course " and not walk away from the peace table. Indeed, of what value will all those assurances of Kagi Murad and Company and their "staying the course" be   if they eventually lose grip and control of their forces?


HUMBLE ADVICE -- My humble advice to the non-believers is to give it a try and let time test it. The pestering fear that entrenching a Bangsamoro law will provide fertile ground for secession in the future should be dispelled. On the contrary, it is an antidote to secession. It should unite and not divide.   But more than that, it renders justice to the Bangsamoro's generational thirst for redress.


NO FEAR -- Perish those fears. Government is and will always be on a high moral ground. The duty constituted authorities have all the options -- and the muscle -- to address any unintended result or eventuality that some of us are apprehensive about.  We should have no doubts about this at all. If things turn awry, Congress can even later strike down the law, if need be. The sovereign people have the final say. But to spurn a hand of peace is, I say again, sheer folly!

Whatever it takes, let us all, --- the Bangsamoro and the non-Bangsamoro -- stay the course. There is no other option. If this does not happen today, then there is still a tomorrow.


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