POSTSCRIPT / December 4, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Balancing Palestine, Bangsamoro issues

NEW YORK – The Philippines was walking a diplomatic tightrope when it voted in the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday for granting Palestine the status of a non-member state observer.

President Noynoy Aquino, the country’s sole spokesman in foreign relations, may want to explain the seeming inconsistencies of his handling of the Palestinian question and the parallel Bangsamoro issue.

Voting by an overwhelming majority — 138 in favor, nine against, and 41 abstaining – the General Assembly recognized Palestine as a state observer but stopped short of admitting it as a UN member.

This rare time, the Philippines did not vote with the United States campaigning to deny recognition and full UN membership to the nemesis of its Jewish ally Israel.

While willing to risk earning the ire of the US, it seems Malacañang is not ready to antagonize the Muslim/Arab world on the Bangsamoro question.

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NO EXPLANATION: It was odd that unlike most of the 188 members present, the Philippines did not explain its Yes vote before the assembly. It took the Manila home office to say through a spokesman:

“The Philippines supports Palestine’s quest for self-rule and self-determination and we hope that one day an independent Palestine may live side by side in peace with its neighbors.

“In line with this desire and our support for the two-state solution, the Philippines voted in favor of the resolution granting Palestine non-member observer state status.”

Malacañang’s spokesmen, who are in the habit of commenting on almost any issue, may want to elaborate on that skimpy statement.

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SECESSION: In claiming adherence to the principle of self-rule and self-determination, is Malacañang ready to apply the same rule on the Filipino Muslim population of five million, which is bigger than that of Palestine?

The question is valid, because whether Malacañang is ready to admit it or not, it is clear that the dream of the Muslim minority in Mindanao is also self-rule and self-determination.

Some observers call that secession, or a breaking away from the dominantly Christian republic.

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SUB-STATE: The Bangsamoro (Moro nation) being carved out of Mindanao in stages with the cooperation of Malacañang is leading to the birth of a sub-state leading to a full-fledged independent state.

Can President Aquino handle that possible breakaway of a Moro National/Islamic Liberation Front (the name sounds similar to that of the Palestinian Liberation Front/Organization) fighting to establish its own state?

Secession may not happen within the term of President Aquino who will bow out in 2016, but the problem would fall on the lap of the successor administration.

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RECOGNITION: The clear majority vote of 138 sovereign states of the global community has accorded Palestine recognition, a vital element of statehood.

Palestine already has a defined territory (albeit with boundaries contested by its neighbor Israel), a sizeable population owing allegiance to it, and a functioning government – the same ingredients of a state that Muslim secessionists are putting together in Mindanao.

Although recognizing it as a full-fledged state, the community of nations conferred on it only the status of state observer, not a voting member of the UN.

But Palestine has won a step nearer full membership, prompting the US and some other Israeli allies to try getting a commitment for it not to gain footholds in key UN agencies that it could use as power fulcrums.

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POLITICAL DRIFT: What happens when (not if) Muslim Filipinos succeed in establishing a viable Bangsamoro with the help of the Aquino administration, Muslin neighbors, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the White House?

That is the political drift of Muslim Mindanao — as everybody who can read documents and body language knows.

Like Palestine, the autonomous and independent Bangsamoro would eventually break away — with the amateurs running the Manila central government being unable to do anything to stop it.

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MNLF U.N. BID: The Moro National Liberation Front, from whose ribs the MILF was taken to carry on the Muslim fight for self-determination, seems to be thinking global with one eye cocked at the United Nations.

Through a spokesman, the MNLF of Nur Misuari has served notice of an intention to file a petition for self-rule before the world body “if the government will not comply with its 1996 peace agreement” with the group.

But how can the government comply when President Aquino already declared that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the product of those agreements, is a “failed experiment.” He is already replacing it with the Bangsamoro under the auspices of the rival MILF.

Misuari reportedly informed the recent OIC’s 39th Council of Foreign Ministers meeting that the government has not complied with the accord that the OIC itself had brokered.

With that betrayal, Misuari supposedly told the OIC ministers, the MNLF has no more choice but to elevate the case to the UN.

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INCONSISTENT: In opposing the UN resolution recognizing Palestine, the US said it did not want to “internationalize” the dispute and insisted on resolving it through bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Casting aside the American saying that what is sauce for the goose…, the US takes a different tack on the territorial disputes between China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines.

Here the US, an outsider, is insisting that China threshed out the problem with the Asean as a group and not bilaterally with individual nations as China would have it.

At least in this respect, the Philippines is consistent in having the UN decide the Palestinian question as a community of peers instead of through bilateral negotiations.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 4, 2012)

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