POSTSCRIPT / July 29, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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US envoy's comments were petty, misplaced

UNDIPLOMATIC: It was petty and undiplomatic for a top US embassy official to have taken issue with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s reference to “international acclaim” in her State of the Nation Address last Monday.

The President said in the early part of her 35-minute speech: “You have a government — indeed you have a country — that cares. Your life is held more dearly than international acclaim . And you have a President who is your friend.”

Asked for comment on the SONA as he walked out of the Batasan after the speech, this American envoy pointed out that the issue was “international commitment,” not “international acclaim.”

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MINOR MATTER: It was the wrong place and the wrong time for the US envoy to have raised such a small matter — “small” as seen against the totality of the wide-ranging SONA.

In the more tranquil days at the old Padre Faura, foreign diplomats did not make political statements directly questioning what the President of the host government had just said in a speech.

They publicly talked on a myriad subjects, but they always refrained from making critical political comment. They did not directly challenge a statement just made by the President! If they had nothing nice to say in public, they just kept quiet.

But then, of course, they were true diplomats, not Americans.

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MISPLACED UMBRAGE: The US envoy’s remarks about the Philippines’ supposed “international commitment” to send a contingent to Iraq was misplaced umbrage.

Let us listen to former Philippine ambassador Rodolfo A. Arizala explain this point more authoritatively. Emailing from Santiago (Chile), he said:

“The critics of RP policy missed the following points:

“1. Main issue was not whether to withdraw or not, but when.

“2. The President is supreme in the management of inter-state relations as decided by US and RP courts. (Also see POSTSCRIPT of 20July2004)

“3. The sending of RP contingent was not in accordance with a treaty or international commitment, but made on a voluntary basis on the part of the Philippines.

“4. Granting arguendo that there was an international commitment or treaty, there is that doctrine in the law of treaties called ‘ rebus sic stantibus ‘ which allows a party to a treaty to unilaterally withdraw or put an end to said commitment if a fundamental change of circumstances occur which is unforeseen at the time the treaty was signed.

“5. When France, Germany and the Russian Federation did not only refuse to join the coalition of the willing but even condemned the armed intervention in Iraq, not a ‘whimper’ was heard from the capitals of the countries now bitterly criticizing the Philippines for withdrawing its contingent ahead of schedule. A clear case of double standard.”

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FILAMS, BANGON!: Jose G. Caedo, president of the Filipino-American Democratic Empowerment Council, has this to say about the negative impression in America that “the Philippines abandoned the American soldiers” in Iraq and that we are weak or unreliable allies:

“Filipino Americans should stand up and disabuse the American mainstream of that notion. To accuse the Philippine administration, and the Filipino people of failing to meet up to its commitments is pure hogwash.

“President George Bush, his administration, members of Congress, and the American press should be reminded of a number of things that stand out in the history of US-Philippine relations.

“The Philippines is an independent sovereign nation, and must act in its national or vested interest. While under American colonial administration for 47 years it was a cornucopia for natural resources for American industry, and a captured market for American products. The archipelago and its inhabitants were fully exploited by the colonial administration, which, while establishing infrastructure, still derived more advantages than the expenditures it made for public works and administration.

“Filipino soldiers and civilians alike bled and died in the hundreds of thousands for America during World War II, as loyal allies, when the Philippine Commonwealth could have easily declared the archipelago as neutral territory. President Quezon actually threatened to do just that because of the long delay in the US’s sending relief forces during the Battle of Bataan. Thailand and French Indo-China declared neutrality and did not suffer what the Philippines did.

“Filipinos later accepted the small recompense of $600 million for the death, injuries, and damage the enemy inflicted upon the country. What is not generally known is that much of that indemnification was in the form of surplus war materiel the US armed forces decided to leave. It was cheaper to turn over the arms and equipment to the fledgling Philippine republic instead of shipping this back Stateside.

“Despite Independence, the US insisted on the 1947 Parity Act and the Bell Trade Act, essentially allowing US companies free rein to do business in the Philippines without restrictions and tariff barriers. Moreover, extra-territoriality agreements were hammered between the two countries, exempting American servicemen from arrest and prosecution by Philippine officials, which led to many abuses.

“Does anyone recall that the US also forced an agreement whereby it would be able to use Philippine territory under a 99-year lease for Clark air base, Subic naval base, Sangley Point naval station, Camp John Hay, and various smaller installations? Only under Ferdinand Marcos were these leases renegotiated, and the periods reduced to 25, then five years — and which were later revoked in 1992 after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption that destroyed much of the bases.

“The Philippines was not receiving American economic and military aid for free, folks. Filipinos were getting very little in return for what they gave up.

“The Philippines sent several combat battalions, including artillery units during the ‘police action’ in Korea from 1950 to 1953, with the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK), as a loyal American ally. Filipino troops died and shed blood there and many Philippine leaders served in that conflict, among them former President Fidel Ramos, and Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

“The Philippines has also been a staunch supporter of American initiatives in the United Nations. On many issues where the US needed help in the UN, the Philippine vote could always be counted on.

“President Lyndon B. Johnson asked for and received Philippine assistance in Vietnam. Philippine troops were needed to give a semblance of regional support to the American effort there in the 1960’s. While the wily Ferdinand Marcos avoided sending combat units, he sent two engineering battalions to help out, in the form of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PhilCAG) troops. These units served well and with distinction. Incidentally, only Australia, New Zealand, and two South Korean divisions engaged in combat operations against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. No other NATO, SEATO or United Nations troops served in Vietnam.

“I take umbrage over the insults lashed against the Philippine government and by extension the Filipino community worldwide. We have long served as loyal US allies, and yes, even lackeys of various American administrations. And yet, for the single act of pulling out the token 51-man humanitarian Philippine contingent, Filipinos are pilloried and crucified by the Bush administration. Such shortsightedness does not make for long-term strategic and bilateral partnerships. The lives of Filipinos should not be sacrificed on the altar of George Bush’ reelection campaign.

“Fellow Filipino Americans, let us show that we disagree with the Bush administration’s unfair and unfounded questioning of our reliability as an ally by coming out in large numbers to express our displeasure at the ballot box on Nov. 2, 2004!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 29, 2004)

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