Raffy Alunan has since made the very definition of walking tall. I should know.
I walked with him…okay, less bravely behind him, when he marched warring political and clan leaders, stripped of their arms and armies, through the streets of Jolo to show an unbelieving populace that sworn enemies could still walk the path of peace. This, as highlight of his SALT initiative, that was the Sulu Arms Limitation Talks.
I looked for the nearest possible escape route when, after the old venerable warrior Ali Dimaporo’s rambling panegyric to his people’s quest for peace and their renunciation of violence he made manifest in surrendering hundreds of guns, Alunan riposted: “Naglolokohan ba tayo?” hurling a token broken Garand rifle at the pile of assorted, antiquated unserviceable firearms.
The succeeding harvests of Oplan Paglalansag in Moroland yielded more weapons of the lethal kind. No doubt the result of Alunan’s standing tall in that Dimaporo episode in Lanao. A most sentimental note: Tawi-Tawi Gov. Hadjiril Matba, tears welling in his eyes, handing over to Alunan the M40 recoilless rifle he used as Kumander Adzhar of the famed MNLF Batch 300 in the secessionist cause, with the words: “We are brothers. We are one. We are at peace.”
Yes, I was there too, when into the night he danced at a cañao high in the mountains up north in one peace mission with Catholic priestturned rebel Conrado Balweg’s Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. A moment frozen in time: Alunan – in the words of a journalist with us – channeling Kevin Costner’s Dancing with Wolves.
So was I as he rushed, at zero-dark-30, on board a Philippine Navy vessel through the Sulu Straits from Zamboanga to Basilan to oversee the rescue of a doctor and his young son kidnapped – if fading memory still serves right – by the then-Janjalani Group that morphed into the Abu Sayyaf.
No, I was not with him in the various international fora on crime prevention and antiterrorism but I knew how he stood tall in all of them from reading the conference reports, if only in their executive summaries. At the height of the Pinatubo devastation, in the worst of the lahar rampages, Alunan made a constant commanding presence in the devastated areas, mobilizing the police and local government units in disaster coordinating councils.
One decisive moment: Alunan at Camp Olivas designating on-the-spot Bacolor Vice Mayor Ananias Canlas Jr. as Acting Mayor, when the sitting mayor could not be immediately found to address an impending crisis in the town, and then took Junior with him on a chopper ride right to the core of the crisis. Oplan Pagbabago conceived and implemented during his DILG watch effected the cleansing of the PNP from misfits and miscreants.
Equally, the LGUs were unspared in his drive toward good governance – famously posterized in rapist-murderer Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez caged at the Camp Crame detention facility.
That Raffy Alunan has what it takes to lead – the breadth and depth of leadership experience, capability, character – has been proven beyond any iota of doubt.
Which makes a reading of a Q&A in his Facebook account a reaffirmation of that faith I – and the countless others who have known him – invested in our Tito Paeng.
1. Do you think the government needs to implement death penalty again?
Yes, to serve as a deterrent (although it isn’t a panacea) while the criminal justice system undergoes reforms across all its pillars – police, prosecutors, judiciary, jails. And focus on the most heinous of crimes – ecological crimes, crimes against humanity (terroristic acts that murder indiscriminately innocent people), agents of government who crossed over to the world of crime and corruption, rape with murder, kidnap with murder, drug lords and their networks.
In the long-run, there is no need for the death penalty with consistent tough law enforcement by authorities who are trusted by the people to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. That condition is what criminals fear the most – no-nonsense law enforcement.
2. Do you agree in letting former Pres. Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani?
My opinion as a civilian and ordinary citizen does not matter. The rule book does. I don’t make the rules. As I understand it, those who qualify to be buried there are those who have no derogatory record and were not dishonorably discharged. FM was, and therefore, lost the right to be buried there. The rule is not about one man. It is about anyone who does not qualify. The historical record is unassailable.
3. Being the underdog with the wealthy politicians who are also considered trapo, what are your main qualities that you can be proud of?
Comparisons are odious, especially if I’m asked to include myself. I was taught never to step on others so that I can shine. I shine on my own merits. Others have their own.
As I recall, I didn’t enrich myself when I had the power. I left government after seven years as when I joined it in 1989, with very little in my pocket. I joined to help stabilize the government rocked by coup attempts, and to serve the people whose basic needs were great. I started out with the Department of Tourism under Pres. Cory, and left when I was in the DILG under Pres. Ramos.
During that time, I fought corruption, crime, terror, the insurgency, secessionism. My DOT legal department was charged in court for criminal activities; I delisted Pagsanjan as a wholesome tourist destination because of crimes against tourists and pedophilia. Oplan Pagbabago of the DILG led to the dismissal and filing of cases against policemen and department officials caught in the web of crime and corruption. During my watch, we broke up private armies, pacified feuding clans, received the surrender of MNLF and NPA cadres, and recovered loose firearms.
I was a peacemaker having spoken to all armed groups to sign a peace deal and work together to build a strong nation (Misuari, Honasan, Balweg, Ocampo, Kintanar, Reyes, etc). I served in the Army to save lives more than to take it – I commanded two Reserve Divisions, 131st RD and 9IDRR. The motto I chose was Salvare Servimus (We serve to save). I helped save the life of Pope John Paul II, kidnap victims from certain death in the hands of the MILF, MNLF and the Abu Sayaff, and victims of natural disasters (Baguio quake, Pinatubo).
I implemented the Local Government Code of 1991 and the PNP Law. I presided over the local government units and disciplined erring local officials with suspensions, the filing of criminal charges and warranted arrests. I presided over the National Peace and Order Council; headed the anti-terror committee; pushed for human and ecological security to be each LGU’s core program.
The insurgency peaked in the mid-80s (26,000 armed communist insurgents) and ebbed during the mid-90s (6,000) in the Ramos era. We signed a peace deal with the RAMSKP- YOU in ‘93 and with the MNLF in ‘96. There were no coups during the Ramos era. The guns fell silent in many fronts of the NPA nation-wide, as with the MNLF and later, the CPLA of Fr. Balweg.
In the private sector, I engaged in corporate social responsibility helping communities at risk and in need of upliftment. After I retired from the private sector, I formed the West Philippine Sea Coalition against China’s illegal takeover of the West PH Sea; and the “Yes to peace, No to BBL” coalition. I also produced a documentary on the Special Action Force entitled Tagaligtas and co-authored a book entitled Silver Linings in collaboration with former Pres. Ramos and main author Mel Velasco…
THE SENATE is a Roman invention. The men who composed it made the very personification of the Roman ideals, of virtus as dignitas, gravitas, pietas, auctoritas, veritas, firmitas, honestas – needing no translation here as they form the root words of the very universal values, which most evidently not only obtained in Alunan but verily lived by him.
Values which, tragically, the Senate of the Philippines has for so long been wanting of.
Yes, Senator Raffy Alunan is the man to fill that void.