Press Release
November 8, 2008


By a hairsbreadth, feisty Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, missed election as judge of the International Court of Justice, after winning in the popular General Assembly, but losing in the elite Security Council.

Her narrow and colorful defeat makes the 15-member ICJ and all-male enclave, despite repeated UN advocacy of gender balance.

"It was a hard campaign, but ultimately it was a power game. The developed states tend to vote for countries where they have interests to protect, such as foreign investments, use of natural resources, and a big export market. As a developing state, we have no such cards to play," Santiago said, after arriving Friday midnight from the UN New York.

The Philippine delegation led by Foreign Affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo and UN Amb. Hilario Davide put up such a brave battle that after the first round of voting, after four judges had already been elected, Santiago 's votes compelled the voting to reach four rounds.

"Big countries like China and France refused to support the Philippines while small countries like Indonesia and Vietnam remained staunch Philippine allies up to the end. Probably none of the Big Powers voted for the Philippines ," Santiago said.

The Big Powers, who are the five permanent members of the Security Council, are US, UK , France , Moscow , and China .

"Reportedly, the US considers the Philippines negligible in world affairs. UK and France prefer to support former colonies, where they have big investments. China has big investments to protect in Jordan . Moscow is sore at the Philippines , because we did not vote for it in the last Security Council elections. All this is realpolitik," Santiago said.

Santiago , a former UP international law professor, said realpolitik is politics based on the national interest and on power, in other words, practical politics.

"The United Nations keeps advocating gender balance but now in the ICJ there are 15 judges without a single woman judge. This shows that the UN does not advance international interest, as much as the national interests of powerful countries," Santiago said.

Santiago , who is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that her recent practical lesson in realpolitik has colored her perception of treaties between the Philippines and certain developed states.

"Powerful states promote international law only when it works in their favor. For example, they advocate gender balance on paper, but reject it when it hinders their own national interests," she said.

Santiago noted that while in the General Assembly some 143 states promised in writing to vote for the Philippines , she got only 107 votes, still the required majority, but showing that some states cannot be trusted to keep their promises.

"In the same manner, the Philippine mission received nine written promises to vote for the Philippines in the Security Council, but only five voted for me. Fortunately, I was already warned that UN diplomacy can be accompanied by betrayal, because of the practice of secret balloting," she said.

Santiago said that if the Philippines plans to nominate another candidate for the ICJ three years from now, the government should already start the process of mutual exchange of favors at this time.

"One strategy is that each time a country approaches the Philippines for a favor, immediately our government should ask for a commitment to the ICJ or any other international organization. Another strategy is to strengthen solidarity among the 10 Asean member states so that we shall form a united power bloc. But the best way is to work at increasing Philippine power in international terms," she said.

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