Davao-based Executive Director of the Initiative for International Dialogue Gus Miclat listed at least four key peace and human security challenges in the Asia Pacific.
First on his list is Crisis of Democracy of Asia Pacific Countries. This is characterized by the ascendancy or return of the Generals, questions of legitimacy, and issues of governance and backsliding democracies.
This is true in the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Pakistan, East Timor and many more.
Second is the Intra-State Conflicts, which is rooted on post-colonial struggles, structural defects, cultural and ethnic differences. Intra-state struggles are also about self-determination and democracy struggles.
In the Philippines, we are facing at least two revolutionary struggles, the MILF in Mindanao and the national democratic revolution waged through out the archipelago by the CPP- NDF and its armed wing, the New People's Army.
This is also true in Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia who are all facing insurgency problems of different levels and scales.
Third is Inter-state and Border Issues. On top of the items here is the chilling India-Pakistan border dispute that pits both nuclear powers in the vast ice wastelands of East Asia. There is also the North and South Korea conflict in North Asia.
Even in Southeast Asia, the claims of China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia over the Spratly's groups of islands in the South China Sea is a potential flash point in our sub-region.
The last in Gus Miclat's list is what he called "the terror in the war on terror." In here you see the footprints everywhere of the number one warrior against terror, the US of A led by the shrub called George.
In this war against terror, armed struggles for self determination and democracy are branded as terrorist activities.
Yoshioka Tatsuya of the Japanese NGO called Peace Boat made an urgent call on the emerging militarization of Japan. "Can you imagine Sony Missile and Toyota Tank?" he asked. These Japanese multinationals companies, he said, are manifesting excitement about getting lucrative military contracts from the Japanese government.
He said that because of growing insecurity in the Asia Pacific and the intensifying economic competition in the region, with China and India waking up in economic boom, the insecurity in the Korean Peninsula and the tension in the northern boundary of Japan with Russia's Sakhalin region, there are now clamors for Japan to strengthen its military might and do away with the pacifist provisions of its post World War 2 Constitution.
This certainly sends chilling reminders of Japanese atrocities in the Asia Pacific during the Second World War.
He said that should Japan join the arms race in the region, it could create more threat to the region's fragile peace and human security.
When I got back home last weekend, I was met by the very saddening and chilling report of the cold-blooded killing of iconic peasant leader we fondly call Tatay Daki, Dalmacio Gandinao.
It was utterly senseless. Killing a 74-year old activist, who had already suffered three strokes is only meant to send a chilling effect to all that no one is safe if you speak ill about the government and if your name or organization gets linked, wrongly or rightly to groups labeled as terrorist-insurgents by the military.
As I have written in my previous columns, tightening of our democratic space is done through the systematic dismantling of the check and balance mechanisms, including the right to due process, the separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judiciary, and the supremacy of civilian authority over the military.
But the way the Arroyo government is tolerating trigger-happy, McCarthyist and Pol Potic Gen. Palparan making public statements about legal activists' link with armed insurgents as an excuse to the killing of political activists, we are still in for a rough ride. I pray not for long.
Even if what Palparan had said was true, the military or the police or anybody else does not have the right to kill rebels, except in an armed encounter. For basically democracy is about due process. That while security forces are tasked to ensure the peace and the rule of law, they cannot be allowed and tolerated to be the prosecutor, judge and executioner at the same time. The rule of law dictates that they effect arrest based on evidence, bring these suspected rebels to court and let the courts of law make the decision.
What is happening to our country, to our beloved Tatay Daki is a manifestation in the grassroots of the global insecurity and absence of peace.
Another saddening news that met me last weekend was the demise due to cancer of a friend and fellow environmentalist Donald "Dondon" Contreras, 54. I had worked with Dondon, who was with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource in Caraga when I was working with the Fisheries Resource Management Project in Butuan Bay from 2000– 2005. My condolence.
(The writer is a community organizer and environment campaigner based in Cagayan de Oro City. Comments can be sent thru [email protected])