By DAVID DIZON
Visiting East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta
paid tribute to the 1986 People Power Revolution
in the Philippines, which he said inspired hope
among the East Timorese for their own
independence even while under Indonesian rule.
In a forum Monday attended by foreign
dignitaries, state officials and the academe,
Ramos-Horta described the Filipino people as
“pioneers” in the region for achieving peace through nonviolent means.
“Your country inspired us tremendously over the
years. When finally, the people movement led by
former President Corazon Aquino took power in
Malacañang, we thought ‘Well, now it is going to
be irreversible.’ But it took longer than we
thought in terms of democratic expectations,” he
said to a packed crowd at the University of the Philippines Malcom
Ramos-Horta, who is a co-recipient of the 1996
Nobel Peace Prize, also praised the late Sen.
Benigno Aquino Jr. whom he described as dynamic
and an eloquent speaker. He said he had a chance
to listen to the former senator during a lecture
at Columbia University in New York.
“I went to him, introduced myself and like many
other international luminaries, you try to talk
to them and they look at you like a moron. He was
very friendly. He laughed, he smiled, called me
brother,” he said, eliciting laughter. He said he
spoke to Aquino several times over the phone
before the senator’s last trip on August 1983 where he was shot.
Ramos-Horta paid tribute to Aquino as well as the
late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, whom
he called a “great man.” A report on the Catholic
Bishops Conference of the Philippines Web site
said Ramos-Horta offered flowers and prayers at Sin’s tomb in Manila
Ramos-Horta said the Philippines also helped East
Timor by sending peacekeepers, led by Lt. Gen.
Jaime de los Santos, to the region after
Indonesia relinquished control of the territory
in 1999. He said that aside from police and
soldiers, the Philippines also sent medical
personnel as well as priests and nuns to the embattled country.
During the forum, Ramos-Horta joked about an
incident in 1994 wherein he was banned by then
Philippine President Fidel Ramos from entering
the country to attend an international conference
in Manila. He joked that he and former President
Ramos were in fact “distant cousins” from the same family tree.
He said, however, that he understood the
Philippine position since Indonesia was
considered an economic tiger in the region before
the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Ramos-Horta also talked briefly about the failed
assassination attempt on his life last February
as well as his pardon of militant leader Joni
Marquez. He said that East Timor is a young
democracy that is still engaged in
nation-building after achieving independence six years ago.
He described the assassination attempt as a
failure of peace dialogue after rebel forces led
by Alfredo Reinado disregarded the negotiations
and decided to use force. “Whoever uses violence,
uses force, no matter the validity of the
grievances or claims, will lose,” he said.
He said he pardoned Marquez since it was unfair
to keep him in prison while Indonesian military
officials responsible for even worse crimes
against the country remain free. More than
100,000 people were allegedly killed by Indonesian troops during the
“In the efforts of peacemaking whether in Timor
Leste or any young democracies, patience,
prudence and humility are virtues that must be observed,” he said.
Ramos-Horta said that while many of his
countrymen do not agree with his policies, he
said any leader should be willing to back away
from any cause or ideology that drags them to the
same level as their opponents.
“I don’t believe in any cause, religion or
ideology where the end justifies the means and
where the political and religious arguments would
lead to the killing of innocent people. If in the
process of the struggle of your independence, you
use the tactics of your opponent, then you must
be willing to abandon the cause,” he said.