I wasn’t worried  the Philippines could become a rogue state if it continued to walk out of international bodies that criticized its human rights record. The international community is much more tolerant than that, and it knows that, good health permitting, President Rodrigo Duterte is good only for the next three years.  I worried more  that DU30 could lose it all and declare international bodies, including the UN itself, as rogue organizations, should they insist on their own ground rules and refuse to sing DU30’s and Teddyboy Locsin’s sad song.

Foreign Secretary Locsin said the Philippines is not quitting the UNHRC, nor cutting off ties with tiny Iceland for sponsoring the resolution authorizing an inquiry into DU30’s human rights policies, which the council passed on July 11 by a vote of 18 for, 14 against, and 15 abstentions. Locsin said so after DU30 rained expletives on Iceland and the UNHRC, and the secretary himself lamented the poor physical hygiene of the Icelanders whom he said failed to shower daily.

For a while many thought the diplomatic ax would fall swiftly. It would have been the second such instance in two years. Last year Duterte withdrew from the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began to show interest in the Davao Death Squad killings.  Instead of challenging the allegations, DU30 pulled out of the ICC, which investigates and tries genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression, on March 17, 2018. The withdrawal took effect this  year,  making the Philippines the second country after Burundi to quit the Statute of Rome.

Despite his earlier tweet, Locsin said the Philippines has decided to keep the status quo, to enable it to exchange insults with the Europeans and teach them lessons in manners, so they won’t accuse the DU30 government of lawless drug killings. However some suspect  the Philippines has decided to stay put in order to help China, its biggest friend as of now, fight its own human rights battles inside the council.

China is DU30’s most powerful ally now, but it failed to  stop Iceland’s ruinous resolution on the Philippines. In the days ahead, China might need help from the Philippines and its other allies, should it be targeted by anything like the Iceland resolution. This is where Locsin’s apparent definition of diplomacy as the untrammeled ability to trade insult with anybody could come into full play.  In the heyday of Philippine-US “special relations” many Filipino hirelings  outdid their American patrons in defending American interests.

The UNHRC was created in 2006, upon the initiative of the US, to replace the UN Human Rights Commission. It has 47 members. But the US quit the council last year, in protest against its “chronic bias” against Israel on Palestinian issues.  Iceland replaced the US. Then-US permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, accused the UNHRC of having become a “protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias…  Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and continue to be elected to the council, and the world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny,” Haley was quoted as saying.

This was a pointed reference to countries like China, Venezuela, Cuba, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which all have a sordid human rights record. Together with Bahrain, Cameroon, Somalia and Eritrea, the Philippines won a seat in the council last year, amidst criticisms from human rights activists who complained that these countries were not qualified to sit on the council. It isn’t clear what effect Locsin’s status quo announcement would have on his earlier statement that no UNHRC inquiry would be allowed in the Philippines by the DU30 government. If the Philippines remains a UNHRC member, it will have to abide by all of the council’s decisions, including the implementation of the Iceland resolution.

Will Locsin require that Europeans take a daily shower as a condition for their being admitted on UNHRC duty into the Philippines? Or could DU30 devise some other forms of humiliation to effect “the promised consequences” of the human rights resolution? Some African tribes carve a tiny wicket door to receive an unwanted European guest while the main doors remain shut: could anything like this tickle DU30’s imagination?

On July 14, Bastille Day, the Foreign Office decided to snub the French national day celebration in Forbes Park, in retaliation for French support for the Iceland resolution. The Foreign Office sent no one to raise a ceremonial toast to the good health, prosperity and happiness of the President of France, and no one in turn raised a toast to the good health, prosperity and happiness of the President of the Philippines.

They could probably have asked Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the Apostolic Nuncio, as dean of the diplomatic corps, to perform this function, but they did not. The snub was as petty as it was uncivilized, and  left a very bad taste in the mouth of the diplomatic corps. The storming of the Bastille (Bastille Day) on July 14, 1789 is a very important event in the history of man’s struggle for political freedom; it marks a turning point in the French revolution, which has influenced the fight for liberte, egalite and fraternite around the world.

In Manila, it is always one of the best attended national day celebrations. As an erstwhile president of the Philippine-French association, I am saddened by this childish snub. But I will feel mortally wounded if and when the French government and all those who supported the Iceland resolution in Geneva were to return Locsin’s favor and, as a minimum, snub the Philippines’ national day celebration on June 12. This means they had begun to take us seriously.

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