Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Security Sector Governance in S.E. Asia 8th Workshop

05 October 2017

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

HON. ANTONIO V. CUENCO

8th Workshop of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum

on Security Sector Governance in Southeast Asia (IPF-SSG)

in cooperation with DCAF and FES Singapore

19-20 June 2010, Jakarta, Indonesia

Excellencies

Honorable Members of Parliament

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to speak before this forum on behalf of His Excellency, Nguyen Phu Trong, President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and the National Assembly of Vietnam.  I am here to share with you my experiences as a parliamentarian of the Republic of the Philippines and as the newly appointed Secretary General of the AIPA.  But more than that, I have come here to learn from you as well.

At the outset, allow me to extend, on behalf of the AIPA, our sincere thanks to the Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Security Sector Governance in Southeast Asia for hosting this 8th Workshop. Likewise, for the invaluable support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-Singapore and the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

I have been tasked to speak on “The role of AIPA in the implementation of the blueprint towards the ASEAN Political Security Community.”

But first, a short background on the first inter-parliamentary organization established in the ASEAN region.

In 1973, a consensus was reached to create an organization of ASEAN parliaments — a forum where the exchange of ideas and experiences will make it possible for parliamentarians to share and find solutions to mutual problems and to help each other overcome individual problems as well.

In 1977, or ten years after ASEAN was established, the AIPO or ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization came into being. AIPO was created to facilitate the fulfillment of the goals of ASEAN as stated in the 1967 Bangkok Declaration.

In 2006, AIPO was transformed into the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly or AIPA. This transformation to a more integrated inter-parliamentary body augurs well with the vision to establish the ASEAN Community by 2015, under the common framework, that is, the ASEAN Charter.

AIPA AND THE ASEAN POLITICAL – SECURITY COMMUNITY

Times and visions have changed. The reforms we implemented in the AIPA organization are aimed at  fulfilling our mission to serve as the bridge connecting the peoples of Southeast Asia.

Under the new Statutes, AIPA shall, among others things, facilitate the goals of the ASEAN as stated in the 1967 ASEAN Declaration, the ASEAN Vision 2020, and the 2003 Bali Accord II, which shall lead to the realization of an ASEAN Community in 2015.

Thus, at the very core of AIPA is the desire to build a new architecture of cooperation with ASEAN which upholds the principles and norms enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and to support a people-centered ASEAN Community.

STRENGTHENING THE AIPA – ASEAN PARTNERSHIP

The 14th ASEAN Summit in Cha-am, Thailand marked new beginnings in ASEAN – AIPA cooperation. It is a milestone towards government and parliamentary partnership, which mirrors the partnership that our governments have with their respective parliaments.

Upon the initiative of the Speaker of Thailand, H.E. Chai Chidchob, the First Informal Meeting between AIPA Leaders and ASEAN Heads of States and Government was held in Thailand on February 28, 2009.

This meeting opened the path for direct dialogue and cooperation at the highest political level between the parliamentary and  executive leaders of ASEAN. The agreements to hold regular informal meetings among AIPA and ASEAN leaders and to establish closer relations between the secretariat of both bodies will enable AIPA to play its role of providing parliamentary inputs and recommendations in the crafting of ASEAN agreements and protocols on political and security matters.

AIPA welcomes the inclusive approach of ASEAN to consult major stakeholders in integration process. The incumbent AIPA President has called for the closest possible relations with ASEAN through a Memorandum of Agreement which shall formalize relations between the two bodies and institutionalize exchange of information and attendance in each other’s meetings.

This enhanced relations with ASEAN will enable AIPA Member Parliaments to assist in the implementation of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint through the adoption of relevant resolutions and actions ensuring the prompt ratification of ASEAN agreements on political and security matters as well as promulgate national legislation in conformity to the APSC blueprint.

HARMONIZING LAWS

Our objective as parliamentarians is to link the peoples of ASEAN not only by sharing our best practices but more importantly we shall now seek to work for the harmonization of the relevant domestic laws of each Member State.

The ASEAN – AIPA partnership is an essential corollary to the establishment of a regional structure that will usher in a more realistic economic integration, a meaningful socio-cultural cooperation, and a rules-based ASEAN political-security community.

We, at AIPA, had long anticipated the time when criminals will no longer find haven in any of the nooks and crannies of the region. Be they international terrorists or transnational crooks cashing on the conveniences brought about by globalization, a rules-based cooperative effort among our governments bound by common legal basis and clear procedures will hunt them down within and across borders.

We have called on AIPA Member Countries to compare notes and exchange information to harmonize substantial and procedural provisions of their respective laws on extradition and mutual assistance in the light of emerging patterns of transnational crimes especially against drugs and human trafficking.

In April 2009, the AIPA Caucus was created. The Caucus shall serve as a mechanism to develop common legislative initiatives with the aim of harmonizing AIPA laws.

We have taken the first steps to identifying the terms of reference in harmonizing laws on drug and human trafficking eventually leading to a uniform scheme for an ASEAN Extradition Treaty.

In particular, we identified illegal drugs because we consider it as the root of all our problems, it being also a serious threat to security and stability; because even as we gather here today, heinous crimes are being committed wantonly all over the world; crimes that endanger the peace, and they happen because of illegal drugs.

We all know that illegal drugs are inter-connected with terrorism, corruption, and transnational crime networks. And Southeast Asia continues to suffer from the detrimental effects of illegal drugs, the proliferation of which affects the growth, vitality, and security of the ASEAN region.

We have seen heinous crimes proliferate everywhere – in the streets and even in the innermost sanctums of our homes. There are bestial crimes in the morning, afternoon, and at night; crimes to the left of us and to the right of us; crimes against the poor and the rich; crimes against the young and the old alike; crimes not only by hoodlums but also by policemen; crimes by the powerful and crimes by the desperate; kidnappings beyond control; robberies without compunction; massacres most foul; and rapes of daughters by their fathers, and even of mothers by their sons. And they happen because of illegal drugs.

AIPA has recognized that a more intensive and determined collective effort against the Merchants of Death must be launched and sustained.  These villains operate in the dark shadows to prey on our helpless children.  We must fight and slay these monsters before they destroy us.

We recognize that the menace of illegal drugs should not escalate to a level where criminal networks will make inroads in our political system, destabilizing our political structure, eroding the health and moral fiber of our region, and disturbing the peace to a level where  security infrastructures collapse.

Earlier on, we amended our Statutes in keeping with the role that AIPA plays in the new scheme of things in the region. We have made inroads into achieving our goals. For instance, many an AIPA resolution found their way into the legislative agenda of many member countries.  In due time, common legislative initiatives will be completed and pushed with the end in view of harmonizing legislation, which is essential in a highly integrated and interdependent Southeast Asian region.

SECURITY SECTOR GOVERNANCE

Much has been said on security sector governance. Studies have been made on the subject. Foremost of which are those commissioned by the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

The common conclusion of these studies is that civilian supremacy and legislative accountability are the basic essentials for a desirable security sector governance. Admittedly, the security sector situation obtaining in any country in the world even in developed countries fall short of the ideal. Each country has to contend with its own domestic peculiarities. Yet the ways of old may no longer work in a highly integrated and interdependent world. Changes have to be made however incremental they may seem initially.

I lay this predicate in the light of the current activities ongoing in AIPA toward a more focused and sustained interest in the development of regional order in Southeast Asia.

AIPA is gravely concerned with the global and regional security situations, which threaten our peace and security, and affect the right of our peoples to live decent and peaceful lives.

Indeed, there is a “strong interconnection among political, economic and social realities” in the area of security. We cannot deny that a security situation in one part of the region, or in any part of the world for that matter, creates ripples of uncertainties in other parts of the region. Stock markets grow wary. Investors flee to safer havens. And retirees lose their hard-earned savings. Such is the unfortunate downside of a shrinking global community.

Therefore, more than ever AIPA, as a partner of ASEAN, declares its unequivocal collaboration to build an ASEAN Political-Security Community; a rules-based community of shared values and norms; a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with common responsibility for comprehensive security.

We, in Southeast Asia, take pride in the fact that for the past forty and more years, we have succeeded in maintaining a peaceful region despite our diversity. We cannot say that we did not have our share of bilateral misunderstandings and national ambitions.

Yet our common desire to rise above our poverty and underdevelopment, our precarious peace and order situation, and the challenges posed by groups from the extreme left and right of the political spectrum allowed us to raise the human development standard of our respective nations.

Certainly, we may entertain differing views on how to run our governments — be it monarchy, socialism, and various shades of democracy. But one thing is clear, we face common security issues such as poverty, transnational crime, illegal drugs, human trafficking, and international terrorism, among others. Regional cooperation in this regard is, therefore, imperative. We could use greater transparency and understanding of defense policies and security perceptions. That is AIPA’s position on the matter. And we intend to promote and pursue such position.

THE BLUEPRINT TOWARDS ASEAN POLITICAL-SECURITY COMMUNITY (APSC)

We are living in an exciting period of our regional history. This excitement is even made more palpable in the field of community building through security-related areas of cooperation.

The Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, popularly known as the Bali Concord II, embodies the ASEAN’s desire to establish an ASEAN Community. A community composed of three components – the ASEAN Economic Community, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and the ASEAN Security Community.

AIPA recognizes that the ASEAN Political-Security Blueprint provides the roadmap and timetable to establish the ASEAN Political-Security Community or APSC by 2015.

I fully understand the reservations of some that the ASEAN Security Community cannot be achieved by a mere blueprint. Certainly, a plan is but a guide – a roadmap. One may choose to disregard the map and play by it by ear.

But the blueprint for the ASEAN Political-Security Community is a manifestation of more than 30 years of ASEAN cooperation.

Borrowing the words of Rodolfo Severino of the Asian Institute of Management of the Philippines – “…the ASEAN Security Community has been ASEAN’s central objective from the beginning. It is, of course, a work in progress; but the foundations were laid in 1967. Since then, without as yet a name for the edifice, building blocks have been added over the years.” (End of quote.)

These building blocks include the ASEAN Declaration on a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) – a pledge to cooperate in security matters; the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) – a treaty reaffirming each country’s commitment to ASEAN political principles, including peaceful settlement of disputes. There is also the treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ); and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – a regional venue for regional security discussions.

In fine, the foundation of the ASEAN Political-Security Community had already been laid firm. There is, therefore, no doubt that ASEAN is inexorably moving towards becoming a rules-based Community in the foreseeable future.

As parliamentarians, we shall do our share in laying the groundwork for a common framework which cuts across the various action points in APSC agenda.

For this purpose, AIPA shall establish workable mechanisms of cooperation and information exchange between ASEAN and AIPA as well as the respective parliaments of the ASEAN Member States; provide legislative proposals, expertise, and the needed parliamentary support to promote a better understanding and appreciation by the peoples of Southeast Asia of the political systems, culture and history of the ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Charter itself; establish strategic programs for strengthening the rule of law, judiciary systems and legal infrastructure, promote good governance and the protection of human rights, among many others.

At first glance, we may feel overwhelmed by the tasks that need to be done, and the set ways which restrict and may prove difficult to unshackle.  But in our search for the common good, let us remember that some may doubt our wisdom but let it not be said that we faltered because we lacked the courage.

ASEAN is charting new horizons and AIPA shall sail with her.

Terima kasih banyak (Thank you very much).

Have a great day, everyone!

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