CPR with US President Harry S. Truman during the ticker tape parade on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone of the UN headquarters in New York.
Carlos P. Romulo
FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2017 - 12:00am

Tomorrow Jan. 14 is the 119th birth anniversary of CPR. He has been regarded as the most renowned Filipino diplomat in history. As a diplomat, he has been awarded over 100 foreign decorations and awards aside from 60 plus honorary degrees from the United States, Europe and Asia. He was the first Asian president of the UN General Assembly and the first Asian to win the Pulitzer prize for journalism. He was proclaimed national artist (literature) in Manila..

Today I would like to dwell on two aspects of his career. The first is his commitment to human rights. In 1947, he worked closely with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt who chaired and finalized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. As Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he spoke on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration.

He said: “This last stated purpose of the United Nations appears the more revolutionary when it is recalled that in all recorded history, the rights of man had never been recognized outside the context or beyond the confines of the society or the State of which he is a part. Now, by the terms of Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter, all Member States pledged themselves “to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the Organization” in order to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

In other words, human rights had become the object of international concern and the individual the subject of international law. Never again could any State validly declare that whatever it may choose to do with its own citizens is its own private affair and that the world community, however outraged it may be, has no right to intervene. From that time onward, no State could with impunity violate or deny the rights of its own citizens without arousing the conscience of mankind and inviting condemnation and possible sanctions by the international community.” Many would agree that the underlined portion has particular relevance in today’s Philippine environment.

I preface my remarks on the second aspect of Romulo by quoting Ambassador Philip Habib: “Humor is the great tool of the diplomat.” One should have a great capacity to interject humor at a critical moment. It always breaks the ice and it is part of that human relationship. It often paves the way to good relationships and makes things move smoothly.”

Romulo’s wit and humor earned him many critics as well as friends and admirers in the whole duration of his distinguished career.” Below are some of those encounters with the Russians at the receiving end:

During the proposal of Molotov of the Soviet Union to have five rotating chairmen in the San Francisco Conference, Romulo was opposing the proposal of Foreign Minister Molotov.

“How can a ship or an airplane fly with five pilots?” Molotov responded: “What right has this gentleman from the Philippines to be in this conference? The Philippines is not yet independent. It’s only a commonwealth. So, I don’t believe the gentleman from the Philippines has the proper credentials to be at this conference.” So, Romulo addressed the acting chairman, Stettinius, and said, “Mr. Chairman, may I answer the distinguished gentleman from Russia.” The chairman recognized Romulo who answered, “May I ask the foreign minister of Soviet Russia why Ukraine and Byelorussia are here when they are not independent and they are part and parcel of Russia?”  There was a tremendous round of applause and the Russian did not respond further.

On the Russian proposal to abolish the Balkan Commission, Romulo once again opposed it. “Romulo was the first speaker and he noticed that Russian Permanent Representative Andrei Vyshinsky was on the third row. And he observed that the longer he spoke, the Russian’s face turned red. At the end of Romulo’s remarks, Vyshinsky, without asking for the floor, immediately moved to the podium. And he said, “Mr. President, that small man from a small nation dared attack the motives of Soviet Russia. He reminds me of that Russian saying, “His ambition is worth a ruble but his ammunition is only worth a cent.” Paul Spaak (Belgian diplomat), who was the president, recognized Romulo again:”, “Mr. President, we just heard the personal vitriolics of the distinguished Foreign Minister of Soviet Russia. I want to remind him, that we, the small nations here, are the Davids who are not afraid to fling our pebbles of truth between the eyes of the blustering Goliaths and make them behave. And if I may add, Mr. President, as to my ambition being worth a ruble and my ammunition only worth a cent, may I remind him that at the current exchange rate the cent is worth more than a ruble.”

One day, in the San Francisco Conference, Molotov of Soviet Russia said, “the matter with that delegate from the Philippines is that he looks at all these international questions with eye glasses from an American optometrist.” Romulo answered: “For a slight correction, these glasses were bought from a Russian optometrist called Purdisky. That’s why I seldom wear them because they distort my vision.”

When the UN official seal, which depicts the world, was being selected, Romulo looked it over and demanded, “Where is the Philippines?” “It’s too small to include,” explained US Senator Warren Austin, who headed the committee. “If we put in the Philippines it would be no more than a dot.” “I want that dot!” Romulo insisted. Today, if you look at the UN seal, you will find a tiny dot between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.

There was another incident in the US when Romulo was in an elevator surrounded by six foot Texans and he was asked: How do you feel being surrounded by us tall Texans?  He responded:

“I feel like a dime among nickels.”




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