The Gentler Civilizer of Nations

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa -

On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, the CD-rom “Philippine Treaties Index, 1946-2010 and the accompanying index book “International Law: The Gentler Civilizer of Nations” will be launched at the DFA FSI Library.

This was one of the last projects that my husband, the late Ambassador Alberto A. Pedrosa, was working on. But he became sick and did not live to see it through.  Happily, Ambassador Ed Malaya and his group in the DFA continued the work. I am grateful to all of them and I am sure that he would have been very happy that the work has been finished.

In the group’s invitation to me for the launch, Malaya acknowledges his role: “Ambassador Pedrosa was an early collaborator on the project and his enthusiasm for it sustained our determination to keep it going.”

Some time before he became ill, he worked furiously like a man obsessed to leave a legacy for generations to come. He left notes and drafts on two other projects his research about “Baselines of the Territorial Sea of the Philippines” and a project study “Towards A New Oil Refinery in the Philippines” hoping that it would be taken up by the Saudi and Philippine governments as an economic driver for Mindanao.

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The CD-rom contains the full texts of the 1,660 agreements concluded by the Philippines since 1946. This first-ever electronic database has a built-in search engine, for easy navigation and research.

To an ordinary layman that might sound like gobbledygook and has no direct bearing on their lives. But as Malaya says in his preface to the book, “A well-informed understanding of Philippine foreign policy and the country’s rights, duties and commitments is best derived from the treaties and other international agreements it has concluded with other countries and international organizations. The breadth and depth of our foreign relations are reflected in this growing number of agreements.”

In fact the treatises have everything to do with good governance and much more especially because of our millions of overseas workers. It can be a fountain of information for sourcing on livelihood and businesses.

“The provisions in these agreements present immense opportunities to our country and people. Entrepreneurs, exporters and other businesspersons can benefit from the numerous accords on trade access, investment promotion and protection, and avoidance of double taxation. Farmers, fisher folks and others in the countryside may benefit from foreign technical and development assistance. The students and the youth can avail of educational and cultural exchange programs with other countries and international organizations,” writes Malaya in his preface.

The project of digitizing treaties was both a vision and a collaboration of many people primarily the Office of Legal Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Service Institure (FSI) and the Library Services of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

The OLA is the official repository of the country’s treaty archives but how to get at it when it is piled high in dusty cabinets. That was the key to the project: how to bring it to the modern age so that the public can gain access to them.  

From 1946-2010 the Philippines has concluded about 1,606 treaties with other countries.     

We are indebted to all those who made this digitization possible. Milagros Santos-Ong, a Chief of Library Services of the Supreme Court of the Philippines gave her indispensible technical expertise and logistical resources. She assisted the treaties digitization project by making it a part of the Court’s E-Library program of digitizing the appellate courts’ decisions, legislations, presidential issuances and other legal resources. 

Allan P. Casupanan, a co-editor and long-time anchor at the OLA Treaties Division, Luz Verdejo, head of the FSI’s Carlos P. Romulo Library and Maria Antonina Mendoza-Oblena, Director of Treaties and an enthusiastic partner in many OLA initiatives, made sure the project was done and completed. 

Others who kept faith on this endeavor were former OLA Assistant Secretaries Reynaldo Catapang and Victor G. Garcia III, former FSI Director Teresita Berner and current Director Laura del Rosario, and Philippine Ambassadors Foundation President Jose Macario Laurel IV.

Student interns from the Lyceum of the Philippines University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, Mindanao State University-Marawi campus, and other schools spent countless hours on the project.

I am of course especially gratified by the final words of thanks in the preface to the book: “The late Alberto A. Pedrosa, Ambassador to Belgium and a techie in his own right, shared the belief in the need for and practical utility of a treaties database, and helped design its initial program structure and fields.”

On the part of the Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio cleared the Court’s support for the project and monitored its progress while Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban gave his imprimatur and hosted the ceremony in June 2006 which launched the DFA-Supreme Court collaboration; and finally, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto G. Romulo who gave Malaya the time and space to see the work through.

The guest of honor on Wednesday’s launch is Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

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As a journalist, one’s first duty is to get at the facts. Therefore it is understandable that journalists should be first in line to agitate for a freedom of information bill. Information is at the heart of their profession.

While the bill is primarily directed at government, the same sagacity should be directed to privately owned media too. Oligarchs use their newspapers radio and television to protect and promote their vested interests. They are not averse to weakening and disabling the state that in the long run should have the power to temper and regulate the greed of business.

It is ironic that this sad story about freedom of information should be the fight of underpaid journalists only against government. Media that abuse their power for profits should be made to account, too for policies that are inimical to media’s role as a public service for information.  

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An announcement from my email:

New evidence and witnesses will be revealed in a forum on Saturday, June 19, 2010, 10 a.m. at the Manila Polo Club. The Movement for Integrity in Governance and Honesty and Truth in the May 2010 elections (MIGHTe2010), a coalition of non-government organizations, civil society groups, and concerned citizens, has the technical and legal proof to show that the May 2010 election was fraudulent and illegal. 

MIGHTe2010 will give a presentation on how the cheating was done. The group’s e-mail is www.might-e2010.com

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