Jesus G. Dureza “Mensapit” The Peace Maker

BORN in Guimbal Iloilo on December 24, 1947, and grew up in Guihing, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, the Awardee of the ST. THOMAS MORE AWARD OF EXCELLENCE during the 50th Anniversary of the Fraternal Order of St. Thomas More,  our  Brod, Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, has been a great credit to the Order and has embodied the ideals of our fraternity and the Atenean credo of being a Man for Others.

 He is best described as a Herald of Peace as he has made the pursuit of peace in our country and the development of Mindanao his life’s work.

In fact, during his recent trip to Baguio City to talk about the Cordillera Autonomous Region, he was adopted by the Igorot tribe and given the Igorot name “Mensapit” meaning Peace Maker.

The beginning of this journey saw him as a journalist for the Mindanao Times while he was studying law at the Ateneo de Davao College of Law. His inherent leadership skills were honed when he became the Grand Archon of the Tau Mu Fraternity in 1971.

After graduating, he landed No. 10 in the 1973 Bar Examinations which jumpstarted a successful law practice that saw him become the President of the then undivided Davao del Sur Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for the year 1985-1987.

It was at this time that his political star began to rise when he was elected Congressman of the 1st District of Davao City in 1987 and, again, in 1992.

His first forays into peace and development came in 1998 when he was tapped by then President Fidel V. Ramos to be the Presidential Assistant in Mindanao and concurrent Chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

After a short break from government work, he returned as the Chaiman of MEDCO in 2001 under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and he also became the Chairman of the Government Peace Panel negotiating with the MILF and, in 2006, he was appointed as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. During all this time, he also represented the Philippines as its Signing Minister in the various forums, summits, and agreements relating to the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines -East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

He also served the Arroyo Administration in various capacities in the Cabinet. He was the Press Secretary from 2008-2009 and then became the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel before returning to his beloved Mindanao as the Chairman of MEDCO and concurrently being the Philippine Signing Minister for the BIMP-EAGA and Mindanao Super Region Development Champion.  At this time, his ability to bring development and prosperity, not only to Mindanao but to the rest of the country, as he was then also the National Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) -Act for Peace Program.

After the Arroyo Administration, he was actually intent on enjoying his private life and retiring from government work. He returned to his first love, the media as the publisher of Mindanao Times, President and Chairman of the Philippine Press Institute, and President and CEO of Advocacy Mindanow Foundation, Inc. as well as being a Trustee of the Davao Verbum Dei Media Foundation, Inc. not to mention other organizational and non-governmental work.

One would imagine that through all this, he would have had no more time for himself and his family. Nothing is farther from the truth. All the time he was a loving husband to his wife, Elizabeth, and a doting father to his four (4) children, Jesus, Jr. (Jay), Jeliza Farrah (Ning), Lady Jessica (Sugar), and Liza Kristel (Kristel).

 He even managed to be a second father to many of his nephews and nieces, the herein writer being the primary beneficiary, which is why so many call him “Papa Jess”. As the writer likes to joke with the personnel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)…..”You call him PAPP, I call him Papa”.

He enjoys spending time with his family so much that his favorite activity during his so-called “retirement”, was for he and his wife, Beth, to steal their eight (8) grandchildren, six (6) of whom are also named “Jesus”, from their homes and spoil them rotten to the consternation of their children. His grandkids love being with their “PapaLo” and “MamaLa”.

His “retirement”, however, was short-lived. He heeded the call once more when his childhood buddy, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, was elected as the President of the Republic of the Philippines and he was asked, or politely strong-armed, into once more resuming his role as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

With the mandate of a supportive President, he hit the ground running, managing to fast track the resumption of talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the implementation of the peace agreements with the Bangsamoro people, and recently, the discussions on the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

 Suffice it to say that even with the expected humps and bumps on the unpaved road to peace, he has stayed the course and the pursuit of a lasting peace in our country has gone the farthest that it has ever had under his watch.

 Indeed the man deserves his Igorot name……MENSAPIT…..Peace Maker.

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