January 23, 2018, 11:32 pm
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Abstention

The Philippines was the only Asean member that abstained late last month on the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the United States for its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

All other Asean members, except Myanmar which did not participate in the vote, voted in favor of the resolution.

The resolution was overwhelmingly approved by 128 members of the UN. And 14 of the 15-member Security Council members that include US allies France, United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Ukraine voted for it.

I find the Philippine abstention curious, to say the least. When the Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted by the UN in 1947, the Philippines was the only Asian country that voted in favor of it. The Plan divided Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem being placed under the administrative authority of the UN.

In 1967, Israel seized and occupied parts of the designated areas for the future Palestinian state, including East Jerusalem. Israel has since ignored UN resolutions to return to the 1967 borders, except the West Bank when she signed a peace treaty with Jordan, and the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula when she signed a peace treaty with Egypt.

East Jerusalem remained an Israeli-occupied territory because it was not included in her peace deal with Jordan.

Subsequently, the UN General Assembly and the Security Council have adopted resolutions decreeing that Jerusalem’s “final status should be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant UN resolutions.” I cannot imagine the Philippines not supporting those resolutions.

In light of the foregoing, I believe our abstention on the resolution rejecting the US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is starkly inconsistent with our much-vaunted new independent foreign policy, for both principled and pragmatic reasons.

Not principled, because it is not consistent with positions we have taken in the past on the issue. 

Not pragmatic, because it did not take into consideration the impact on our relations with ALL Muslim countries, not only in Asean. Lest we forget, the bulk of our OFW heroes work in Middle Eastern countries.

So what could have prompted our government to abstain on the Jerusalem resolution? We could ask our permanent representative to the UN in New York, Teodoro Locsin, Jr. I understand he recommended it. I assume Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano and/or President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong approved it. 

I hope the position we have taken has nothing to do at all with the reported threat of US President Donald Trump “to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor” of the resolution.

But hadn’t Digong been unequivocally saying that we do not want aid or grants with conditions from other countries and organizations like the European Union? Recently, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the Philippines withdrew our application for second assistance from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation for “policy independence.”

Incidentally, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reportedly invited to a reception on January 3 representatives of countries that voted against, abstained or did not cast a vote “to thank you for your friendship to the United States”. I suppose our UN representative honored the invitation?

THE P6 MILLION PCSO XMAS PARTY – “LABIS!”

The general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Alexander Balutan claims that the P6 million tab for the Christmas party of his office held at a five-star hotel was not lavish. 

P6 million, by any stretch of the imagination, is too much for a party, especially for a government office whose existence it owes to the majority of the poor people who shell out a few pesos each lottery draw in the fervent hope that they’d win and get them out of their misery. Theirs is the same money that the PCSO revelers spent for their party.

Dapat ang sinabi ni Balutan tungkol dun sa party ay “labis”, hindi “not lavish.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said: “I think you know that the President does not tolerate extravagance… I’m sure the President will look into the matter.”

This is a lot worse than the “travel offenses” committed by former chairman Terry Ridon of the Philippine Commission for the Urban Poor who was fired by Digong, along with his fellow commissioners.

Let’s watch what happens. 

CHINA’S ENTRY INTO OUR TELECOM MARKET

Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson have expressed caution over Digong’s decision to have China Telecom enter the telecommunications market in the country for “national security” reason.

Obviously, the two still have their hang-up about Chinese intentions towards the Philippines, that China is up to no good, that she will undermine our national security if given half a chance. That sort of thinking is long passé, with the end of the Cold War.

To begin with, it really is up to us to protect our national security and to prevent any power from undermining it.

Aren’t the two senators aware that Ayala’s Globe Telecom is reportedly controlled by Singapore’s state trading corporation, Temasek? That PLDT/Smart is virtually owned by an Indonesian tycoon who has great influence in Indonesia?

And do these two realize that any one or both of these countries can undermine our national security if they so choose to protect and promote their respective national interests? If not, they are naïve!

Furthermore, don’t they realize that China can, if she wants, undermine our national security even without entering the telecom market here.

Of the two, Drilon appears to be more pragmatic and realistic on the entry of China when he said:

“The entry of a Chinese company into the local telecommunication industry is a welcome development given the present state and quality of the Internet and telecom services in the country, which is among the slowest in Asia.”

THE MRT3 MESS

Hundreds of commuters had to be offloaded again recently, the latest in the first two days of 2018, from the MRT 3 trains for various glitches. 

The Department of Transportation officials headed by Digong’s close friend Arthur Tugade would do well to take note of the recent train crash of Amtrak in Washington state in the US. 

At least three people were killed and about 100 were brought to hospitals after most of the Amtrak train’s carriages derailed onto a highway below and fell on seven vehicles. 

Just seven! Can you imagine if such derailment happened on MRT 3 and carriages fell on the EDSA “parking lot” below? There could be scores of fatalities and hundreds injured. Heaven forbid! 

I do not want to sound like a doomsayer. I just want to tickle the mind of the authorities concerned to the distinct possibility of such an accident taking place here to spur them into acting faster and more decisively on the MRT 3 mess. 

***

REMINDERS

I have decided to resume inclusion of this segment in this space to remind the administration of some of its yet unfulfilled promises and matters that need attention and/or follow-up action.

1) Digong’s promise to rid the country of foreign troops. This, of course, includes re-visiting the lopsided VFA and the EDCA with the US.
2) Reciprocal visa arrangements with the US and other countries.
3) The retrieval of the Balangiga bells.
4) The return of the Canadian waste.
5) The immediate implementation of the FOI.

***

Today is the 236th day of the eleventh year of the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, son of the late press icon and founder of this newspaper.

After the acquittal of Major Harry Baliaga, Jr., the only person formally charged with Jonas’ kidnapping, I guess what happens next is now up to Divine Providence.

***

From an internet friend: 

On a warm summer night, a young lady entered the butcher shop with startling news for the butcher: The baby in her arms was his. 

Nonplussed, the butcher didn’t know what to do, and eventually offered the only thing he thought he could - he offered to provide her with free meat until the boy was 16. She agreed. 

He had been counting the years off on his calendar, and one day the teenager, who had been collecting the meat each week, came into the shop and said, “I’ll be 16 tomorrow.” 

“I know,” said the butcher with a smile, “I’ve been counting too, tell your mother, when you take this parcel of meat home, that it is the last free meat she’ll get, and watch the expression on her face.” 

When the boy arrived home he told his mother. 

The woman nodded and said, “Son, go back to the butcher and tell him I have also had free bread, free milk, and free groceries for the last 16 years and watch the expression on his face!” 

***

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