United Nations

[Just Saying] The Philippines’ embarrassing abstention from the UN resolution calling for peace

Mel Sta Maria

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[Just Saying] The Philippines’ embarrassing abstention from the UN resolution calling for peace

David Castuciano/Rappler

'No explanation or excuses by the Marcos administration can hide the utter insensitivity of its amoral, if not immoral, decision'

Recently, the Philippine permanent mission to the United Nations entered the Philippines’ abstention from the October 27 United Nations General Resolution (GA 12548) calling for a humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas. This resolution was nevertheless adopted, with 120 countries approving it, 14 opposing, and 45 abstaining in the United Nation’s 10th Emergency Special Session.

The adopted resolution a) called for the “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce leading to  cessation of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas, for the “unhindered humanitarian access for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners,” and for the “unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive,” and b) “demanded the unhindered provision of essential aid to civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.” Likewise, it “stressed the grave impact that armed conflict has had on women and children as well as on other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities, including people with disabilities and older persons.” Surely, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these declarations. 

This GA resolution, even if symbolic, is the closest international collective response of the global community, calling for the end of the war. What this resolution seeks to accomplish is to end the continued bombardment of Gaza in Palestine, which so far has killed thousands of innocent civilians including hapless children and the elderly.

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The Philippine abstention is embarrassing. This non-vote showed diminished appreciation for the extermination of innocent human lives in Palestine, for the destruction of people’s homes, and their deprivation of their basic needs like food, water, electricity, and means of communication so that they can reach loved ones and be informed of their whereabouts. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs explained that the reason for the abstention was because the resolution did not refer to the October 7 massacre of Israelis, which most states, including the Philippines, have already rightfully and timely condemned as barbaric. The spontaneous and collective horror expressed by the world regarding such mass killings by Hamas speaks louder and more forceful than any resolution.   

While such pogrom should be rightfully denounced in the strongest possible terms, the adopted GA  resolution nevertheless aims at stopping what is happening at the immediate present time – and these are the deliberate annihilation of people who have absolutely nothing to do with the October 7 massacre  and the deadly unpassable routes essential to provide food-aid to the Palestinian people.  

Those are the points which this present Marcos administration, through the DFA, failed to appreciate,  simply disregarded, or refused to accept as compelling and immediate reasons. What is utterly appalling is that the abstention completely ignored our own history, our own experience of being victims of bombardments. Despite Manila having been declared an open city in December of 1941, the Japanese bombarded the city, causing  hundreds if not thousands of Filipino deaths. And during the liberation of Manila in 1945 from Japanese occupation, the city was again bombarded, killing thousands of innocent Filipinos. Second only to Warsaw, Poland, it has been historically chronicled that Manila was the second most devastated city during World War II. Many Filipinos suffered tremendously and horrifically. The Marcos administration could have easily shown empathy with the Palestinian people given the Philippines own terrible experience. And yet it did not join the GA resolution because of the omission of a tragedy which has nevertheless been globally, strongfully, and properly condemned.

It was even reported by the Inquirer in its October 31 internet portal that “Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo on Monday stressed that the Philippines’ abstention from voting on the United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war did not mean that the country was against the measure.” If this is a policy statement, then it is as duplicitous as it can be, for how could a position say that it is for the truce, and at the same time not join the very formal declaration precisely underscoring it?

Distilling the essence of the resolution, the bottom line is crystal clear: stop the killing of innocent Palestinians. About 8,000 uninvolved Palestinians have already died and thousands have been injured. And that number is increasing daily. Calling for a halt to the hostilities is a no-brainer, and yet this Marcos administration, through the DFA, abstained. What a very disappointing decision, indeed! How can the Marcos administration utterly miss the crux of the resolution? No explanation or excuses by the Marcos administration can hide the utter insensitivity of its amoral, if not immoral, decision. 

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Government decisions must reflect the values of the citizenry they represent. In the international sphere, government must demonstrate to the world its nations’s moral principles. Filipinos have been known  to be a peace-loving people, principled and sensitive to oppression. We hate subjugation, bullying, and senseless deaths. Article 2 Section 2 of our Constitution specifically provides as one of our republic’s lofty declarations of principles and state policies that “the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.” 

Regarding the bombardment and killing of innocent lives in Palestine and the subjugation of its people, this Marcos administration’s actions lamentably have not lived up to the high standards of our Filipino values, moral principles, and the Constitution’s spirit and aspirations. 

As an expiation, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must publicly announce for the whole world to hear a formal, unequivocal, and strong declaration denouncing the deadly bombardment of Gaza at the present time, commiserating with the innocent people of Palestine and Israel, bringing to justice all people, whether Israelis or members of Hamas, responsible for the deaths of innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike, and calling on the whole world to finally and immediately grant the Palestinian people a homeland of their own. – Rappler.com

Mel Sta Maria is former dean of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Law. He teaches law at FEU, Ateneo School of Law, University of Santo Tomas, Pamantasang Lungsod ng Maynila, and the University of Makati; hosts shows on both radio and Youtube; and has authored several books on law, politics, and current events.

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Mel Sta. Maria for his informative article entitled, “The Philippines’ embarrassing abstention from the UN resolution calling for peace.” First of all, the readers should not think that such abstention speaks of the Filipino People but rather that of the Marcos Jr. administration only. Secondly, I agree with the DFA’s reason for the abstention, which is the non-inclusion of the October 7 massacre of the Israelis. This is because why should it not be mentioned when it is the cause of the Israel-Hamas war in the first place? I also believe that there are other underlying reasons: 1) Marcos Jr.’s mind has been conditioned by the atrocities committed by his very own father, Marcos Sr., against the latter’s political enemies, and 2) the “Kill, kill, kill” policy of former President Rodrigo Duterte and the latter’s “duplicitous” character. But, the third and most important reason is that President Marcos Jr. is just kowtowing to the U.S. stand on the same issue. Hence, both stated and underlying reasons explain the Marcos Jr. administration’s amoral, if not immoral, decision.

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