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Sunday, 08 March 2015 06:44



We agonize today over the peace pact between the MILF and the government. After Mamasapamo, there are now serious challenges and obstacles.  But while we are sorting out things, we need to    keep the guns silent. This is through the ceasefire agreement.


"ARMISTICE" --- Talking of ceasefires. This may help assuage our own ruffled and worried feelings.  Just barely four (4) hours away by plane from Manila, are two deeply divided Koreas, North Korea (called Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK) and South Korea (officially called Republic of Korea or ROK).  Fact is, since the war broke out in  1950, the two Koreas  do NOT have a peace agreement up to now. All they have today is  a ceasefire protocol called "armistice".


VISITING DMZ -- During  an international forum on "Prospects for Peace in Northeast Asia" in Seoul, Korea over the past few days organized by the US-based Washington Times,  I was able to visit the "no man's land" demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North Korea and South Korea. The two forces are in fact facing each other literally "eyeball to eyeball" with only a two-way street separating them from  each other. Well, it's not really just the street but the United Nations military contingent that supervises the so-called "armistice" or ceasefire.  The name "DMZ" is actually a misnomer. The 240-kilometer line popularly known before as the "38th parallel" that divides the 2 Koreas, in some places, is heavily  militarized.


DICTATOR -- In the north, a  young, widely regarded as a volatile despot, Kim Jung Un, rules after he succeeded his late father. The head of the UN mission told us during the briefing that the "coordination" protocols of the "armistice" was suddenly changed since March 2013 soon after the young Kim took over. " They no longer answer the phone on the other side", he said. The phone represented the joint dialogues, meetings and coordination  that kept both sides in peace. Nonetheless, although some tensions surface from time to time, the ceasefire or armistice holds.


DEFECTORS ---During our group's side visit to the world-renown hub of the CHEON IL GUK of the late Rev. Moon, to witness  the international  celebratory  event of its founding anniversary including that of the Universal Peace Foundation and officiated by DR. HAK JAN HAN MOON, co-founder of Washington Times, we were able to listen to the testimonies of defectors from North Korea who escaped from the despotic rule across the  border. They claimed that they paid bribes to Nokor soldiers and officials in the borders just to cross the River Han for their deliverance. Life, from their accounts, in the north was like hell on earth, no food, virtually no respect for human rights and dignity and violence. They had to escape.


MISSILES & ATTACK ---During the time I was in Korea, two missiles were launched from North Korea to the sea as a protest to the on-going military exercises by South Korea with the US. On my last day in Seoul,  US Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert, a close bosom friend President Obama, was attacked and wounded by a Korean who was mouthing anti US-ROK cooperation  expletives.


ONE KOREA --- In spite of these challenges, the dream of re-unifying the two Koreas still remains a high priority, especially among the elderly Koreans whose families and  friends are still sadly  separated or are missing.  Others are mostly totally  unheard of. Talking to some young Koreans though, the issue of a divided Korea does not seem urgent. The young generation basks in and are preoccupied  with  the economic boom and prosperity of the  progressive south. Those recurring  threats of possible outbreak of hostilities are evidently  pushed back in the backburners of their minds, although the fear of the future pop up from time to time when incidents take place.


FUTURE --- A deeply divided Korea is a humanitarian crisis in itself. The rising tension rears its ugly head from time to time. There are expert Korea watchers who opine and firmly hold the view that unless the present North Korean government collapses or dictator Kim Jung Un is deposed suddenly, a reunification and a turn to peace is a "pipe dream". But there is optimism.  "That time will definitely come but as to when, we do not really know", a highly placed former US diplomat told us.



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Sunday, 01 March 2015 13:19



This kind of "striptease" does not tantalize nor excite. It angers. The way the Mamasapano actual facts had been exposed slowly piece-by-piece is not scintillating at all. If only all those involved immediately bared all and gave full disclosure at the outset, the nation would have been spared this agonizing and divisive disrobing. Sad, but it seems we have all forgotten the fact that it was indeed  "mission accomplished". We got Marwan -- although at terrible costs. We are doing "self flagellation", whipping ourselves.  We have squandered the gains of years of seeking peace. Our focus to peace is now diverted. And worse, we are now a deeply divided and polarized people. In the meantime, I am hearing the rolls of the drums of war.

CATHARSIS -- This excruciating process of truth seeking is the catharsis we all need. Over the days, we have witnessed steeled, uniformed gentlemen and officers, public officials and ordinary mortals unabashedly shedding or holding back tears in public. A nation in tears is one way of exorcising. We need a national catharsis-- a purging of bad vibes and the relieving of pent-up negative emotions of distrust, grief or anger -- to regain our lost bearings. We are all in this together, whether policemen or soldiers, pro administration or anti PNoy, MILF or MNLF, Muslims or non-Muslims alike.

NEW BBL --With what is happening in Congress and the expressed sentiments and public statements I am hearing, I can foresee that the next best thing that can happen to BBL is that it will become a NEW BBL. Obviously, Congress will definitely not take the original draft of the BBL "as is" as painstakingly crafted by both the GPH and MILF peace panels.    But we cannot just let go. We need to recover from the distractions and re-focus. I say again with more clarity: we need a peaceful settlement to address the generational aspiration of the Bangsamoro. Given the shattered peace equilibrium and the ensuing distrust --deserved or undeserved -- spawned by Mamasapano, there is much work to be done.


"INCLUSIVE" --- Now, I think it’s not only just removing the so-called unconstitutional provisions from the BBL. We all have an opportunity to also   enhance and make the new BBL more "inclusive”. This is not easy to do I know but there is now a strategic opportunity to again try and unify the deeply divided Bangsamoro factions. The MILF's Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) can be consolidated with MNLF’s 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA LAW). I can tell from my experience that this is difficult to do, given what had happened before. The feudal, ethnic and historical divides are there but I trust these can be breached in time. The best-case scenario is: a roadmap for all Bangsamoro. This was the original roadmap. We can return to that route.


ALTERNATIVE -- Hence, instead of totally dismantling the ARMM and repealing its enabling law, Republic Act 9054, the better way forward, considering realities, is for the new BBL to build on the gains and foundations of the original and amended ARMM law.  We should cast out what did not work with ARMM. But let's not totally dismantle it. Let's not pretend the ARMM did not exist. Let's not throw away what had been built over the years with the ARMM. For all its perceived and real faults, let's preserve and build on its gains. Let's not reinvent.   Instead let’s consolidate.      The bottom line in this alternative plan is to have one "Bangsamoro road map" for all.  In short, the BBL can metamorphosize into an enhanced revised or amended ARMM LAW.


DONORS -- One final word. Our international partners must not sulk and close shop in the face of these challenges. In fact, they are most needed now more than ever. Improving the lives of the deprived and the miserable should not wait for peace agreements to be signed first, although no doubt they provide an enabling environment for development work in conflict affected areas and the poor communities.


SECRET FORMULA -- I will not get tired repeating again and again the counsel of former President Ramos, whenever the going went rough in our negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF years ago when I served in the government panel. According to him, a peace negotiator must have three secret qualities: 1. Patience; 2. More patience; and 3. More, more patience. This can apply to all of us now as we still recover our true bearings for peace.

DREAMING -- My dream is to exorcise ourselves of Mamasapano, convert this national calamity into an opportunity and, by seizing the moment, we all move on. Perhaps, Mamasapano was really meant to be.

Yes, easier said than done. But I can still dream, can't I?


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