Monday, May 14, 2007


Edsel Rodrigazo Arrieta, Peace Program Officer III, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, Office of the President, passed away on May 13, 2007 on 5:00 a.m. at the age of 49. He expired at Quezon City General Hospital where he was rushed for an emergency medical intervention. He suffered a stroke which Manang Alice, her wife, suspects has been brought about by the complication of the injury he sustained on his foot while on a mission somewhere in the Cordillera months before. She suspects that the infection on Manong Edsel’s foot, who was a diabetic, might have affected the circulation of his blood.

Manong Edsel was survived by his wife, Alice Arceo Arrieta with their three (3) daughters. Celine, the eldest - married Carlo Lagman, with two children Kaycee and Kayleen, who was an apple to Manong Edsel’s eye. Followed by Kay, my ina-anak and Angeline, the youngest.

Among those who first arrived to his funeral were his officemates at OPAPP, Rolly Asuncion, Manong Edsel’s immdediate superior and Nonoy Catura, from the Office of Executive Secretary Ermita. His brother Manong Dante with wife Manang Odette, Sonny with wife and children as well as Atty. Abunio Arrieta Jr., our cousin and golf mate of Jess Duraza, who was the President’s Adviser on the Peace Process, followed.

Manong Edsel started his government service with the Metro Manila Authority, where he met Alice Arceo. He decided to opt for an early retirement and momentarily indulged into business. He re-entered government service during the Ramos Administration (if my memory serves me right) with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process. He has been my long time companion at Project 8 where we lived for about a decade at our Aunt’s house Tiya’y Elpha during the 80’s with Manong Labing, his brother.

Not known to many, I and Manong Edsel has a close working relationship during my stint as a Senior Executive Assistant to the Deputy Administrator, National Irrigation Administration, when General Orlando Soriano was then our Administrator and concurrent head of the government’s peace panel to the MILF-GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippine) accord. We coordinate with each other. Rebels who sent feelers to get back to the folds of law were referred to us by the OPAPP as beneficiaries of government projects either as workers of NIA or as beneficiaries of the DA’s Livelihood Enhancement Projects for rebel returnees, where I previously worked prior transferring to NIA.

We negotiate for peaceful settlement of conflict and recommends the granting of amnesty to those who wanted to get back to the folds of the society. “It is cheaper to negotiate for a peaceful settlement of conflict than to go to war”: this has been the policy then under the Ramos Administration. No wonder that after the Marcos regime, it is in our midst that tremendous developments in the irrigation sector propelled agricultural growth. Our country’s economy outgrew our neighboring countries and foreign debt was about to be wiped out. NIA irrigated thousands of hectares of Riceland and finished it’s project without much cost overrun. The Mal-Mar Project in Cotabato, Bohol Irrigation Project in Pilar Bohol and the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Project were materialized in a span of two years. I remember then that we, with the Korean consultants on board a Toyota four wheel drive vehicle nearly fell at the cliff in mountain slope somewhere in Dupax, Nueva Vizcaya while crossing the mountainous terrain at the borders of Nueva Vizcaya and Ecija to meet with “Ka Gerry”, a leader of the Bungkalots and to negotiate for the peaceful construction of roads leading to the camp site where the the construction of a tunnel for waters from the rivers of Nueva Vizcaya to cross over Nueva Ecija’s Pamtabangan Dam is to be established. Thereafter, I have to travel only with a driver to the mountainous terrain of Pilar in Bohol to appease ‘Boy Simbajon’, former NPA Commander, as the Bohol Irrigation Project is nearing to its end and we have to terminate hundreds of workers, some of whom are rebel returnees. We negotiated for Boy’s surrender almost a year before to soften the resistance against the construction of the Bohol Irrigation project and gave them livelihood afterwards.

Manong Edsel spent the prime years of his life negotiating for the peaceful return of our lost brothers who were misguided because of the hardship they suffered from the few who prefers to exploit the weak. At times, he becomes subject of suspicion not only of the left, but also of the right because of his sincerity to keep the words he gave not to divulge the identity of persons he is dealing with while in the process of negotiation. Months before his death Manong Edsel traveled to the Mountainous terrain of the Cordilleras to meet with undisclosed personalities. With a companion, they walked by foot for hours to reach the rendezvous agreed upon. In the process, he slipped while negotiating for his feet to land on a firm surface, but flip instead. He suffered an injury afterwards. Now overtaken by age and his diabetes, it was the last time my cousin set foot to the mountains to find peace. In his grave now lies the secret of those he helped, the families of those he shielded for their safe and peaceful return to the society. My cousin now finds peace of his own.

At times he would call me to ask for my comment every time the administration changes as their office is a mere ad hoc body of the Office of the President and they do not enjoy security of tenure, after my stint at NIA. Sometimes he would confide to me how others were promoted or hired to higher positions despite his seniority, but always rejected offers by our relatives to interfere. True to his word, he has been a peace advocate to the last.

We salute our brother in his advocacy for peace and progress. May this spread the word for those he helped, the people he cared for and their families who now enjoy peace.