A global community

SOME of our politicians have been threatening to leave the United Nations or one of its bodies, the UN Human Rights Commission. Such remarks should normally be dismissed as mumblings of politicians in search of public attention.

In the case of Senate President Tito Sotto, I think he just wants to proclaim his loyalty to Duterte without having to genuflect before him and kiss his hand the way Alan Peter Cayetano did to get the speakership. Sotto is obviously feeling insecure about keeping the Senate presidency.

Responsible public officials shouldn’t be saying such things so casually. We exist in this world as part of a family of nations which the UN represents. And in spite of Duterte, we are as a nation still supportive of the ideals that led to the UN’s creation.

Of course, there are world politics involved in the way the UN operates. We do not always get what we want.

One of the UN’s most important documents is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on Dec. 10, 1948 as a common standard for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

That means, there are some rights that are simply basic and inalienable no matter what some countries may think of at certain points in their history. 

For instance, Article 3 states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Article 11, on the other hand, points out that “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”

Adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explains why reports of so called extra judicial killings in the course of the President’s anti-drug drive has elicited such vehement reactions worldwide. That’s why that resolution sponsored by Iceland was adopted by the UN Human Rights Commission.

It does not help our country’s image that there is a meme going around that claims Alan Peter Cayetano’s speech at the UN justified killing drug addicts and suspects because we do not have the resources to follow standard judicial proceedings. Nor do we have the resources to rehabilitate them all.

I am not an admirer of Mr. Cayetano, but I watched the speech on YouTube and I must point out he didn’t say those things. The meme is based on an article prepared by the Inquirer’s U.S. bureau. The article is an opinion piece rather than straight news.

The meme is bothersome, not because of what Inquirer maliciously claimed that Cayetano said at the UN, but because we have heard something along those lines in one form or another even from the President himself.

True, our judicial system is underfunded and unreliable. True, we don’t have the resources to rehabilitate all the drug addicts. But none of those deficiencies justify killing human beings, guilty as some might have been, without due process of the law.

And while some got killed in legitimate encounters with police authorities, not enough has been done to look into possible cases of abuses by the police. That’s also why the Duterte drug drive is getting international attention and condemnation.

As for leaving the United Nations, that’s too drastic. We, of all people, should be aware of the value of working through an international system of nations.

Our workers are all over the world, whose interests are protected by the international community.

While we are not much of a trading nation, we know that we benefit from world trade facilitated by such international bodies as the World Trade Organization.

Indeed, our business climate will suffer significantly if we leave the UN. There will be an impact on foreign direct investments, stock markets, business confidence on our country. It could actually significantly damage our economy. Many of our people, here and abroad, will lose jobs, and with that, a chance for a better life.

Besides, why leave the UN when we benefit from many of its agencies? There is the World Health Organization, whose regional headquarters is right here in the Philippines. It is at the forefront in the international fight against epidemics.

Then there is the independent arbitral tribunal established under UNCLOS whose ruling in our favor on the West Philippine Sea provides a good example of the rule of law as it covers disputes between nations. It gave a small country its day in court against actions of a regional bully.

It is wrong to equate an appeal to the United Nations or any of its agencies as an act of treason against our country. Some sycophant trying to justify his government position even said it is an impeachable offense for the Vice President to do so.

I like the way Greg Atienza, one of my former colleagues in the marketing communication industry, puts it in his Facebook post.

“Does anyone malign the country by seeking international support in defense of human rights of Filipinos? For how could they expect refuge under local laws when their president considers the Constitution as mere toilet paper?

“Is not the United Nations all about a good world order of civilized nations that protect human rights for all?”

No man or country is an island. We cannot live apart from the rest of humanity whose collective moral and ethical standards we must respect. There are international commitments we simply have to keep.

Our social contract, Cayetano told the UN, is no longer confined to the nation state. He declared in that speech before the UN General Assembly that we are now a global village, a global community and we are all citizens of the world.

That’s a message Duterte and his allies should take to heart. (Philstar.com)

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