Friday, February 20, 2009

The Philippines Vs. the Superpowers : Upholding Sovereignty

Article II, Section 7. The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.

Sovereignty. The very essence of being an independent nation.

Two issues confront the Philippines which will put to the test how we uphold and defend our nation’s sovereignty. Both will bring us on a collision course with the two Superpowers of the World and how our country’s leaders will decide on the matter will show how much we really value our sovereignty.

We are now facing a curious situation where the three branches of government, prescribed by our Constitution as co-equals, will be pitted against each other on a matter that would probably benefit a foreign nation.

The first is the case of Mr. Smith. Daniel Smith. Or more accurately, United States Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was convicted of raping a Filipina and is now serving sentence in a room inside the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

His incarceration in a U.S. facility sparked objections and protests from nationalists and ordinary Filipino citizens who believed that the marine should have been imprisoned in the same prison where Filipinos convicted of the same crime are sent to serve their sentence.  But the people’s protests fell on deaf ears and everyone was witness to how the Department of Interior and Local Government spirited Smith out of detention and delivered him safely to the U.S. Embassy.

Several years have passed and people seem to have forgotten about Smith. Now comes a Supreme Court decision which says that convict Smith should be incarcerated under Philippine authorities.  The highest court of the land instructed the government to renegotiate with the United States for the transfer of Smith to Philippine custody.

What is noticeable is that the Philippine government seems to be dragging its feet on this Supreme Court decision, even to the point of appearing to be siding with the Americans.  One would expect that the government, which is sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, will act in full consonance and wilfull compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court. That does not seem to be the case.

In fact, one suggestion from a high administration official, which seems to be more of an insult to the Constitution and the sovereign Filipino people than an effort to propose a solution, was that Smith could be detained in the Philippine Embassy in the United States.  The official said that it would still comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. Technically yes, it might comply, but doesn’t it smack of intellectual dishonesty since such an act is obviously not in the spirit of sovereignty?

On the other hand, the same government is trying to puff and beat its chest like a gorilla in the face of the People’s Republic of China’s protest against the Philippine Baselines Bill which outlines the territorial boundaries of the Philippines.

By an act of Congress, another co-equal branch of government, the country’s boundaries were prescribed by the Baselines Bill (soon to be the Baselines Law) in compliance to the requirement of the country’s being a  signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

After the bill was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and is now ready for the signature of the President, China expressed its objection and even summoned the Philippine Charge d’Affairs to explain the matter, an act which is actually a diplomatic flexing of muscles to assert sovereignty.

In contrast to its actuations with regard to the Smith case, the Executive Branch this time gave an appearance of upholding Philippine sovereignty by stressing that the President will sign the bill into law inspite of protests by China.

Conveniently forgetting its lackluster defense of sovereignty against the Americans, the government boasted that it will stand up to China’s protests because the Baseline bill is an issue of sovereignty. Empty boasts, double standards, hypocrisy. Call it by different names, but one thing is clear---Article II, Section 7 of the Constitution is inconsistently upheld.

Philippine sovereignty is absolute. The Constitution says so. Therefore, government has the obligation and the duty to defend the country’s sovereignty, no matter against who.  We should defend and uphold it against China and the United States, even if they are the world’s superpowers.  

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