Let’s get our perspectives straight, lest President Duterte’s strident outburst against the United Nations on Sunday August 21, drives our country out of the world body and reduces us to an island of isolation in the middle of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Our membership in the UN is not a matter for our President to decide at will. It is rather an expression of our national commitment to assist in the fulfillment of the UN’s mission to achieve world peace and international cooperation. This commitment transcends the passing changes of leaders that occur in our constitutional government from time to time.
In 1945, when the United Nations was founded after the cataclysm of World War II, we were an original signatory to the UN Charter. And we were one of 51 member countries that convened for the first session of the UN General Assembly on October 24 that year.
The original membership has increased to 192 nations today. The trend clearly has been for nations to join, not to leave the UN body. Even North Korea has been a member of the UN General Assembly since 1991.
Section 2, Article II of the Philippine Constitution states: “The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity with all nations.”
This provision places our nation squarely within the ambit of the UN’s work and mission.
Our country’s work with the UN has been exemplified through the years by Filipino participation in peace missions in many trouble spots around the world.
It has been returned splendidly by UN support for our efforts here at home. The UN donated $193 million to the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda back in November 2013, during a time of devastation in our country.
The work of the UN, through its major administrative bodies – the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice – has sometimes been marked by controversy and disagreement. Nevertheless, the members have embraced the principle that the UN must have a strong commitment to prevent the repetition of World War II’s atrocities and genocide. This consensus led the General Assembly to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This document is a simple, eloquent statement of the ideal principles of human relations and human rights, the foundational basis of individual, family and social life, which transcend time, nationality and culture for the betterment of all.
Many years ago, in reply to nationalists who wanted their countries to stay out of the UN and reject the movement toward internationalism, Dag Hamarksjold, Swedish statesman and secretary-general of the UN in 1953-55, wrote: “The way to safeguard what you rightly want to defend is not isolation. The way is a vigorous and self-confident development, in free contact with the world, of the special qualities and assets of your nation and your people – a development which should give them their just weight in the international balance. Giving, thus, to the world what is specifically ours, we could manifest and protect our national character, while accepting changes and opening our minds to the influences of the world.”
To suggest that the Philippines should bail out of the United Nations, because our present government cannot fulfill its human rights obligations in its current war on drugs or bear the scrutiny of the UN, is not only absurd, it is a reckless comment too risky to make should any official international entity within hearing shot take it seriously.
To say that our country, after getting out, will join other countries in forming a new world body is a monstrous joke.
And it is in that domain where it should remain, never to be taken seriously by any party.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. has explained that the Philippines had no real intention of withdrawing from the UN and that the President was only expressing his frustration over the obstacles he faced in carrying out his war against illegal drugs.
We have a chance at real change as a nation. Let us not risk ruining that chance through reckless declarations made in the heat of the moment, at the expense of the institutions and values we hold dear. Not at this time when our country is one of the fastest growing in the world, full of both promise and dynamism.