It’s about self-determination not historic title

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the February 27th, 2013
    “historic claims and feudal pre-colonial titles are mere relics of another international legal era, one that ended with the setting of the sun on the age of colonial imperium.” - International Court of Justice

There are persuasive legal and historical arguments to support the Philippines’ claim to Sabah. However, wonderful as those arguments may be, we have no right to claim Sabah because the people of Sabah have spoken and they have no interest in becoming a part of the Philippines. They voted to join Malaysia in a referendum conducted in 1963.

Although the Philippines claim to Sabah has not been brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the ICJ has ruled in the Application by the Philippines for Permission to Intervene in the sovereignty case between Indonesia and Malaysia over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan that “historic title, no matter how persuasively claimed on the basis of old legal instruments and exercises of authority, cannot – except in the most extraordinary circumstances – prevail in law over the rights of non-self-governing people to claim independence and establish their sovereignty through the exercise of bona fide self-determination.”

The Court also pointed out, “Under traditional international law, the right to territory was vested exclusively in rulers of States. Lands were the property of a sovereign to be defended or conveyed in accordance with the laws relevant to the recognition, exercise and transfer of sovereign domain. In order to judicially determine a claim to territorial title erga omnes, it was necessary to engage with the forms of international conveyancing, tracing historic title through to a critical date or dates to determine which State exercised territorial sovereignty at that point in time. Under modern international law, however, the enquiry must necessarily be broader, particularly in the context of decolonization. In particular, the infusion of the concept of the rights of a “people” into this traditional legal scheme, notably the right of peoples to self-determination, fundamentally alters the significance of historic title to the determination of sovereign title.”

Sa madaling salita, walang ibig sabihin ang historic title mo kung ayaw ng mamamayan na magpailalim sa poder mo because in this post-colonial world “the principle of self-determination of peoples” rules. Self-determination na ang basehan ngayon. It trumps historic title every time.

The ICJ also upheld the 1963 Sabah referendum,

“15. Accordingly, in light of the clear exercise by the people of North Borneo of their right to self-determination, it cannot matter whether this Court, in any interpretation it might give to any historic instrument or efficacy, sustains or not the Philippines claim to historic title. Modern international law does not recognize the survival of a right of sovereignty based solely on historic title; not, in any event, after an exercise of self-determination conducted in accordance with the requisites of international law, the bona fides of which has received international recognition by the political organs of the United Nations. Against this, historic claims and feudal pre-colonial titles are mere relics of another international legal era, one that ended with the setting of the sun on the age of colonial imperium.”

“16. The lands and people claimed by the Philippines formerly constituted most of an integral British dependency. In accordance with the law pertaining to decolonization, its population exercised their right of self-determination. What remains is no mere boundary dispute. It is an attempt to keep alive a right to reverse the free and fair decision taken almost 40 years ago by the people of North Borneo in the exercise of their legal right to self-determination. The Court cannot be a witting party to that.” (Read the entire decision here: http://www.mpil.de/ww/en/pub/research/details/publications/institute/wcd.cfm?fuseaction_wcd=aktdat&aktdat=201010200400.cfm)

President Aquino is right, the Sabah claim is a hopeless cause. And he is not the first president to see this. Unfortunately, there are still many intelligent Filipinos who believe we have a legitimate claim to Sabah, based on historic title. Consequently, no Philippine president will want to be seen as the one who “lost” Sabah even though we already lost it in the Sabah referendum held 50 years ago.

Sabah is for Sabahans. If they chose to belong to Malaysia then so be it, we have to respect their choice. Period.

As to the proprietary claim of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah, please naman huwag na niya idamay ang buong bayan diyan. It’s a personal proprietary claim, it is not a matter of national interest.

Hopefully, President Aquino will set the record straight.

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The secret test: Habemus duo ante habemus papam

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the February 18th, 2013

“Renounced not resigned,” I pointed out to my friend who was writing an article on Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement.

“What difference does it make?” he replied.

“That is a question that I, a man of simple faith whose Catholicism came from the successors of Padre Damaso, must leave to the pontification of pedants and pundits like you,” I replied.

“I don’t have time to split hairs, I’m rushing to meet my deadline,” he said, irritated.

“Deadline is the cross that journalists stuck in old technologies must carry,” I told the newspaperman. “By the way,” I said to soften the blow, “did you read the Associated Press report “Secret oaths, chants in ritual to choose Pope”?

“No, why?”

“It’s cinematic.” I read an excerpt from the report,

    “The conclave begins with the cardinals in their red cassocks filing into the Sistine Chapel, chanting the monophonic Litany of Saints followed by another sacred song, “Veni, Creator Spiritus,” imploring the intervention of the Holy Spirit and saints as they take their places before Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment.” The cardinals place their hand on the Gospel and promise to observe absolute secrecy both during and after the conclave, and to “never lend support or favor to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention … in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

“Why an oath to observe absolute secrecy?” the newspaperman asked, finally pushing his laptop aside when he realized I was not going to let him finish his work undisturbed.

“It’s a hangover from the time when the Kings of France, Spain, or the Holy Roman Emperor could intervene in Papal elections…”

“But that veto power was abolished a hundred years ago,” he replied.

“I know. So maybe there is something else they want to keep secret. Something anachronistic and highly embarrassing.”

“Like what?”

“You know the story of the female Pope?”

“That’s just a legend,” he replied. “There are no official records on that. She is not even listed in the roll of Popes.”

“But the legend persists,” I persisted. “And from that legend – if it is really only a legend – comes the story of The Test.”

“C’mon man,” pulling back his laptop, “that ritual where the elected Pope took his pants off for the College of Cardinals was just a scene in the historical fiction series The Borgias.”

“I’m not referring to that scene,” I said. “That was a toned-down-for-TV version of the real test described in manuscripts all the way back to the 12th century.”

“What does legend say?”

“Because of Pope Joan, newly elected Popes were made to sit in a chair with a hole in it, a stedes stercoraria or latrine chair. A designated cardinal would then feel around for testicles and upon confirmation would announce, “Duos habet et bene pendentes” (He’s got two and they hang nicely),” I recounted.

“Really?” he asked, incredulous.

“Well, it’s a Men Only club,” I replied.

“I know it’s a Men Only club!” he said. “What I find incredible is the test you described. Do they really have that test?”

“Yup,” I replied. “Like the old conclave saying goes, “Habemus duo ante habemus papam”.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“It takes two to tango.”


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UNA and LP: Political Bandits

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the February 18th, 2013

UNA and LP: Political Bandits
by Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III

This Toby Tiangco, the campaign manager of UNA, has a keen political sense.

For one thing, he takes the threats UNA faces seriously. In one press interview, Tiangco was frank enough to express his fear about Senator Serge Osmeña’s involvement in the electoral campaign. Osmeña is giving advice to several candidates of the Liberal Party (LP) coalition, namely Jun Magsaysay, Grace Poe, and Risa Hontiveros.

Osmeña is the Pinoy equivalent of Barack Obama’s David Axelrod. Our senator may not be as politically progressive as Obama’s campaign adviser. But it is insulting to compare Osmeña to the arrogant Karl Rove, who exposed himself to be a bad clairvoyant after predicting Mitt Romney’s victory in the swing state.

Osmeña’s choice of candidates is right but demanding. Magsaysay (not Mitos), Poe and Hontiveros are among the honest politicians and reliable reformers in the LP slate. They, along with the likes of Jamby Madrigal, Koko Pimentel, and Sonny Angara, deserve to win. (The politically correct might object to Angara’s dynasty. But nothing is wrong as long as the dynasty eschews guns, goons, gold and Garci).

But Osmeña’s candidates are not frontrunners. Fortunately, what Tiangco calls the “Serge factor” is a boost for their campaign.

For another thing, Tiangco delivers stinging propaganda that hits the nail on the head. In another interview, Tiangco turns the tables on the LP coalition by accusing the ruling party of accommodating “political butterflies.” Indeed, many of the former Gloria rabble-rousers jumped ship and moved to PNoy’s party. Aray! What is LP’s rejoinder?

Still, the LP coalition has charged UNA of pretending to be daang matuwid. That is very correct, for UNA has a surfeit of candidates who oppose daang matuwid. For that matter, UNA’s candidates are unfit to symbolize daang maganda.

What is maganda about Mitos Magsayasay, Gloria’s henchwoman, who blocks every major reform of the PNoy administration? What is matuwid about Gringo Honasan whose claim to fame is his being a serial coup plotter during the democratic transition? What is maganda about Jackie Enrile, the absentee congressman, who nevertheless has name recall, being the son of Marcos’s martial law executioner and Gringo’s godfather? What is matuwid about Miguel Zubiri becoming senator, thanks to the vote manipulation engineered by Gloria’s servants like Abalos and the Ampatuans? And what is maganda about Manong Ernie Maceda, the typical trapo, despite his makeup? To top it all, the UNA triumvirate of Binay, Erap, and JPE is a gang of bandits.

But wait, we cannot be judgmental about political bandits, as propounded by Mancur Olson. Olson distinguishes the stationary bandits from the roving bandits (foreign aggressors, for example). The stationary ones need the legitimacy or the votes to extend their terms, and they hence have the incentive to deliver the public goods.

Think Binay. In Makati, he is a strongman, a maton. Yet, thanks to the huge resources at this disposal, he has made Makati a modern and “socialist” town. And through his delivery of the public goods, he and his family get elected and re-elected. In turn, this performance in Makati propelled him to become Vice President and has become the launching pad for his ambition to be the next President.

Let’s face it: Both UNA and LP have political bandits. But that’s where the similarity ends.

UNA has obnoxious bandits. And even though the LP accommodates bandits (after all, politics is addition), its core consists of decent politicians and reformers—led by PNoy himself; progressives like the Abads, Tañadas, Jun Abaya, TG Guingona, Jamby Madrigal, Neric Acosta, Sid Ungab, Niel Tupas, Jocelyn Limkaichong; veterans like Frank Drilon, Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, and Serge Osmeña. This is the party of reform—the party of Ninoy Aquino, Jovito Salonga, and Jesse Robredo.

As the party of reform, it should be the party of the future. The lesson from contemporary political economy, especially in East Asia, is that a predictor of prosperity or sustained growth is the endurance of a reformist and visionary political party. Never mind if it is has stationary bandits.

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