A great faux pas

BY REY O. ARCILLA
MALAYA

‘To go to New York and not address the UN General Assembly during its general debate is a big mistake.’

WHAT is President Noynoy Aquino really up to? What is the real purpose of his trip to New York and Washington? (To boost investments in the country, as claimed? Masyadong gasgas na ‘yan!)

These are questions many people have been asking ever since he announced he was going to the US and Japan soon after his state visit to China. Is it his way of trying to balance our relations with these three economic and military powers in our region? To begin with, does he have a foreign policy which, simply defined, is a set of guidelines that a government adopts in dealing with other nations to promote its national interest? As far as is known, he has yet to define one.

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Support of the United Nations has always top billed the pillars of the foreign policy platform of every administration since Manuel Roxas, except the present one, it seems.

Last year, he went to New York and addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), not because of the importance his administration attaches to the world body. He went there so early in his term because his advisers said he needed to have his debut on the international stage. His advisers tried to further justify the trip by arranging (pilit na pilit) a 7-minute “pull aside” meeting with US President Barack Hussein Obama during the Asean-US Summit, a speaking engagement with a group of inconsequential American businessmen and the obligatory meeting with a number of Filipino-Americans. Hardly worth the P25 million of his bosses’ money spent for the trip.

Exactly one year later, he is off to New York again! Only this time, he is doing something very wrong. He is snubbing the UN! He will be there during the first three days of the month-long UNGA general debate when heads of state and government of the member countries will be addressing the General Assembly to deliver their policy statements.

Obviously stung by his experience last year when he addressed a half-empty plenary hall (which is normal except for the leaders of the veto-wielding Security Council members and others whose countries are embroiled in current burning issues), he has chosen to ignore the world body this time.

Geez! I am tempted to blame his advisers for this great faux pas, but having been told often enough that the man has a mind of his own, well… Still, addressing a sparse audience would be a lot “better” than totally ignoring the UN. Bad for his ego, but definitely good for the national interest.

The irony of it is that his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario cannot sub for him while Noynoy is there – first, that would be a breach of protocol and second and more importantly, for Del Rosario to deliver the country’s policy statement would only serve to accentuate Noynoy’s snubbing of the world organization.

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Days before his party left, Noynoy’s mouthpieces were saying that this working (?) trip will not have a business component. They could have been a little more honest by admitting that very few businessmen were interested to join the entourage. They know that the trip will be a sheer waste of time, money and effort.

How I wish Noynoy would just concentrate for now on sending some big time crooks of the previous regimes to jail. Once he has done that, he will see how his job becomes a lot easier, in particular with respect to stamping out graft and corruption which is the root of virtually all our problems. The sooner he does that, the better. It will leave him more time to set things aright in this country. Four years and a half ain’t long. That’s all he has left.

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Oh, before I forget, Noynoy’s mouthpieces also kept harping on the supposed invitation extended to him by Obama to attend the meeting of the so-called Open Government Partnership (OGP). Here is what Google found for me about the OGP:

“The Open Government Partnership is a global effort to make governments better. We all want more transparent, effective and accountable governments – with institutions that empower citizens and are responsive to their aspirations. But this work is never easy.

“It takes political leadership. It takes technical knowledge. It takes sustained effort and investment. It takes collaboration between governments and civil society.

“The Open Government Partnership is a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, OGP is overseen by a steering committee of eight governments and nine civil society organizations.

“To become a member of OGP, participating countries must embrace a high-level Open Government Declaration; deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation; and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.

“The Open Government Partnership will formally launch in September 2011, when the eight governments on the steering committee embrace the Open Government Declaration and announce their country action plans. We invite you to stand with us in September and signal your country’s intent to join OGP and deliver your own action plans when we meet again in Brazil in March 2012.”

I have no idea how we became a member of the steering committee of this movement. Based on the above description of OGP, it doesn’t look to me like we are ready to take on the responsibilities of being a member, let alone those of a steering committee member. To begin with, do we have a “country action plan” which each of the eight governments of the steering committee is supposed to announce at the New York meeting? The plan is supposed to have been “developed with public consultation and commit to independent reporting on (its) progress going forward.” I am not aware that that has been done.

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A momentous event will be taking place in this year’s United Nations annual session. The Palestinian Authority (PA) will be seeking full membership in the world body. It will supplant the Palestinian Liberation Organization which at present enjoys observer status, in much the same way as the Holy See does.

To attain full membership, the PA must have Security Council approval of at least nine affirmative votes without a veto of any of the five permanent members and subsequent approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly. (The US has vowed to veto the Palestinian proposal.)

According to CNN, “another option for the Palestinians is to try to use a 1950 mechanism known as “United for Peace” whereby a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly can stand in for the Security Council to make a decision if it fails to act as required to maintain international peace and security. This would be equivalent to 129 votes if all 193 UN members were present. To date, 125 countries are said to recognize Palestine but the Palestinians hope they would gain the support of up to 150 if they go down this route.”

CNN further maintains that “the final alternative is to ask the General Assembly for a straightforward resolution. A vote could be held within 48 hours of submission but would probably be delayed until at least October, after the general debate. This would give more time to negotiate a text that would have maximum support, from European countries in particular. Approval would require a simple majority.”

Full membership for the PA in the UN will not lead to an established “state” with defined borders. It will only give the Palestinians an upgraded international status and allow them to pursue legal actions against Israel, like going to the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court.

Having established diplomatic relations with the PA long ago, I assume the Philippines will support the Palestinian move. I wouldn’t be surprised though if the US has been lobbying hard for us not to do so.

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I understand our permanent mission to the UN had been trying desperately up to the last minute to persuade Noynoy to change his mind and address the UNGA. Question is, is Del Rosario doing his part? Does he realize the implications of Noynoy’s decision? If not, he has no business being foreign secretary if he cannot give his boss the correct advice on a very important foreign policy matter. Is he serious about the responsibilities of a foreign secretary or is he interested only in keeping the job?

If, on the other hand, Del Rosario does indeed give Noynoy the right advice and he is ignored or rebuffed, he should quit.

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Finally, the suspension for one year without pay (a mere slap on the wrist, many say) of the notorious Michael Macaraig, a minor functionary in the DFA, for conduct prejudicial to the service has been effected.

The question now being asked by the department personnel is “what about the funds of the DFA Personnel Association which he has not turned over to its incumbent president?” He should be made to account for them. And only Del Rosario can make him. Unfortunately, he refuses to for reasons known only to him. It’s his responsibility to his wards.

Del Rosario also has a responsibility to protect the interest of Noynoy’s and, by extension his, bosses,

For instance, Del Rosario has not taken any action, as far as is known, on the alleged rental of premises for an embassy in Baghdad where we have not had any diplomatic mission since 2004 or thereabouts. In the meantime, poor Juan de la Cruz is allegedly losing roughly P250,000 a month, plus the cost of maintaining an ambassador to Iraq and his staff in Amman, Jordan, since April last year. His favorite future ex-undersecretary, Rafael Seguis, was supposed to go to the Iraqi capital a month ago presumably to look into the matter and assess the security situation there. Will he ever go or is he afraid to get stranded there as he was in Tripoli?

People are also waiting for Del Rosario to make good on his promise to have investigated the alleged irregularity in the acquisition by his close friend and predecessor, Alberto Romulo, of the consular office on Macapagal Boulevard.

I am beginning to suspect Del Rosario has an “iwas-pusoy” attitude when it comes to controversial matters. He is not being consistent with Noynoy’s “daang matuwid” dictum.

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Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):

1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration during Arroyo’s regime; 2) facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; 3) expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos; and 4) investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia.

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From an internet friend:

Usually, everyone who has a dog calls him Rover or something. I call mine “Sex”.

Well, Sex is a very embarrassing name. One day I took Sex for a walk and he ran away from me. I spent hours looking for that dog. A cop came along and asked me what I was doing in the alley at 4 o’clock in the morning. I said I was looking for Sex. My court case comes up next Thursday.

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Today is the 145th day of the fifth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

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Email: roacrosshairs@yahoo.com


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