Alan Peter Cayetano, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Philippines, delivered a lengthy address to the UN General Assembly that deserves close attention.
With the days agenda largely dominated by speeches from both the Syrian Arab Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, many other important speeches got lost in the fray. Among these, the speech from Philippines was deeply important for its explanatory value of the situation in Philippines as well as for the philosophical and even spiritual approach to global problem solving that Cayetano offered.
During the speech, Cayetano made it clear that far from violating human rights as certain western politicians have stated, Philippines is actually preserving the life, liberties and human rights of Philippine citizens by taking a strong law and order based approach to drugs. The zero tolerance policies of President Rodrigo Duterte remain popular among Philippine people because of this. These measures do not curtail but expand the human rights, dignity, safety and health of the Philippine people.
As Cayetano explained, when a nation is fuelled by drugs it becomes a nation in the grip of violence. He asked his audience of fellow nations, how a nation can truly be sovereign if it is in the grips of drug violence and on the verge of becoming a narco-state?
He further stated that because of the indelible link between narco-cash and the financing of terrorism, it is explicitly crucial to crack down on the international drugs trade with the same fortitude with which it is necessary to crack down on terrorism, even as the so-called ISIS is being vanquished in both Syria and Iraq.
Cayetano also spoke of the need to cooperate increasingly with neighbours and partners, naming China as one such country.
Unlike many UN speeches, Cayetano’s address implored the world to listen as well as talk. He explained that during his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte spoke less and promised less than his opponents, but that he listened more. He listened to the needs, worries and goals of the people and because of this he was granted a victory in a democratic election.
This attitude as pioneered by President Duterte, is one that the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs said was in keeping with the goals to prevent war from breaking out. He stated that people must listen and talk to friends as well as enemies in a subtle allusion to the notion that insults and threats is not the way to solve the North Korean issue.
Below is the full text of Alan Peter Cayetano’s speech in addition to a video of the address.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children
of GOD. Matthew 5:9
Mr. President, Excellencies,
The path to peace must be walked with patience. To achieve any
purpose with others—be they powers or people, patience is
needed. The opposite of patience is impatience—the cause and
aggravation of conflict.
Someone said that “Talk, talk is better than war, war.” Listening is
even better than talking. We must listen to others more than we
listen to ourselves. Hopefully we know what we are talking about.
But others may know what we do not. We can learn only if we
stop talking, and listen.
We may think we know how others can do things better than
they’ve done it. Maybe our way is more efficient. But the time
gained by that efficiency will be time lost convincing others that
our way is better, rather than a compromise between our way and
Real change in the world order necessitates cooperation. Nothing
affecting others can be undertaken without their willing
involvement, without getting their agreement on the purpose and
manner of it. Achieving a shared purpose beyond any single one’s
ability requires cooperation.
But how else can we get cooperation if not with the patience to
explain why it is needed—and the equal patience to listen.
This is why we have the United Nations, the largest cooperative
endeavor in human history. We use the UN to speak out but
equally also to listen. And somehow arrive at a consensus, or at
least a modus vivendi on how to proceed—in peace and therefore
with a greater prospect of progress.
The theme for this year’s session— “Focusing on people: striving
for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”—
captures a promise that everyone who has stood here vowed to
fulfill for his people, and the rest of the peoples of the United
Nations, as the Preamble of the Charter puts it.
Yet, after 72 years, while much has been achieved, much more
has to be done. The promise is still very much a work in progress.
We, the peoples of the United Nations, battle new threats that
undermine such success as we’ve achieved, and frustrate further
progress in peace, development and human rights— the three
pillars of the United Nations.
Your theme, Mr. President, mirrors the Philippines own peoplecentered
agenda as articulated by President Rodrigo Roa
President Duterte and The Filipino People are committed to real
change, to finally carrying out long needed reforms, to addressing
national threats long ignored, protecting the human rights of all
Filipinos, while doing our part in attaining regional peace and
We remain true to our obligations under the international treaties
we have ratified. We have made much sacrifices and continue to
be willing to make sacrifices.
The Philippines integrates the human rights agenda in its
development initiatives for the purpose of protecting everyone,
especially the most vulnerable, from lawlessness, violence, and
anarchy; particularly families, women and children, the poor,
indigenous people, migrant workers, the elderly, and persons with
This is why we have a massive campaign to restore the rule of
law by fighting corruption, crime and illegal drugs. We owe it to
the 10 million Filipinos working overseas to keep their children
and family safe. We owe this to the all Filipino Families.
The very principle of The Responsibility to Protect must
encompass first and foremost the vast majority of peaceful lawabiding
people who must be protected from those who are not. It
is for their safety and sustenance that states exist, and for which
governments and leaders are responsible.
President Duterte said fewest words and made least promises in
the campaign because he listened. He listened and he heard
what none of the other candidates would listen to. The vast
majority of Filipinos felt vulnerable in their lives and livelihoods,
unsafe in the rising drug-driven criminality that threatened those
least able to protect themselves. They were also those past
governments had least protected: poor and ordinary folk.
The Philippines comprehensive campaign against illegal drugs is
necessary instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of
all Filipinos, and never an instrument to violate any individual’s or
group’s human rights.
War vs. Illegal Drugs
It was noted in this hall, that “all sovereign nations must uphold
two core sovereign obligations: to respect the interests of their
own people and the sovereignty of other nations.” This is true as
much in bi-lateral relations between sovereign countries, as when
they combine multilaterally on some common decision or action.
The Philippines is a sovereign country. Indeed, it was the first
subject nation to win its independence however short-lived,
thereby earning the honor of being the First Republic in Asia. It
expects that sovereignty to be respected, and that its
democratically-elected government’s assessment of threats and
how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence
among nations—or at least the benefit of their doubt.
We prize sovereignty in all its aspects. We acknowledge the
wisdom, and borrow the words here spoken: “All responsible
leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens first.” In
keeping with that obligation, it is a state’s duty to protect human
life, human dignity, and human rights—from aggression by other
states, terrorism from non-state actors, and the destruction of
societies and families from criminal networks trafficking in drugs,
people and arms.
As a responsible leader, the Philippine president launched a
vigorous campaign against the illegal drug trade to save lives,
preserve families, protect communities and stop the country’s
slide into a narco-state. An epidemic that would spell the end of
sovereignty in any meaningful sense.
As of August 2017, the drug trade had penetrated atleast 24,848
barangays. This is 59% of the total of 42,036 of the smallest
government units spanning our archipelago, the ones directly in
touch with our people. Where is sovereignty in a country where
vast numbers are addicted to drugs and enslaved to their
To be sure, drug addiction calls for cure and not chastisement.
When the President showed his fierce determination to end the
drug menace, 1.3 million drug users turned themselves in. But the
neglect of the drug problem by previous governments has left the
current one hard pressed to rehabilitate them all. We are thankful
that generous souls at home and abroad are building centers all
around the country.
While drug addiction calls for rehabilitation, drug trafficking surely
calls for stern measures—though always consistent with the rule
of law. The President has and will always have zero-tolerance for
abusive cops, as time will show.
But accusation before investigation is not proof. Nor is it fair.
Abuses have occurred and mistakes have been made, tragic
ones for sure. While one abuse is one too many, still the abuses
are far less than the imaginary numbers of partisan accusers and
publicity seekers. The drug trade has penetrated even law
enforcement. And yet we are getting a message that the best way
to stop abuses in the antidrug campaign is to stop the campaign
and live with drugs instead.
But we cannot live with drugs because drugs will not let us live.
We can no more live with drugs than with terrorism, which, the
United Nations admits, and as we have discovered is funded by
the drug trade. This has created the new phenomenon of criminal
In the century before last, a huge and well-populated Asian
country was enslaved by a maritime power which flooded it with
We welcome this opportunity to address the international
community’s concerns and correct the perceptions gleaned from
media reports that deny the real scale of the problem as if denial
is a solution. The problem is huge and we will not reduce it in our
imagination because we dare not face it in reality.
Appeasement emboldens evil. We counsel patience but delay will
make the problem bigger until it is beyond containment and
control. Indeed, as we have heard in this hall, “When decent
people and nations become bystanders, the forces of destruction
only gather power and strength.” We will not slide down the slope
of complacency, and of willful ignorance of the threat to our
country and our people posed by the drug trade.
Counterterrorism and Violent Extremism
In the past four years, we have seen the rise of the Islamic State
and how it has been able to spread its nihilistic ideology beyond
Iraq and Syria to become a serious threat to the world.
We should hold no illusion that the threat posed by the Islamic
State will be over with the collapse of its self-proclaimed caliphate
in Iraq and very soon in Syria. Rather, we should all be ready to
confront a very potent threat that has spread to other parts of the
In the Philippines, we have discovered the intimate and symbiotic
relationship between terrorism vis-à-vis poverty and the illegal
drug trade. These terrorists were somehow able to bring together
an assortment of extremists, criminals, mercenaries and foreign
fighters who attempted but failed to take control of Marawi. This
was part of their grand plan to establish in Southeast Asia an
extension of their shattered caliphate in the Middle East.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines shall regain full control of
Marawi from Islamic State-inspired terrorists. Their protracted
hold on their last several square meters of the city is largely a
result of superior arms illegally obtained, and the presence of
civilian hostages used by them as human shields. There is also
the government’s forbearance to unleash greater force so as to
avoid collateral loss of life. The fight has been terrible but the
effort has been patient and done with care to spare the innocent.
There’s been less talk and more listening to those with the most
at stake in the struggle: the people of Marawi. The disturbance
will be over soon and the rebuilding of Marawi will begin shortly.
Terrorism is a global problem that no country can tackle alone;
although here at the UN it was noted with some admiration that
Filipino families outside the conflict zone quickly absorbed most of
the 200,000 displaced civilians. Our main disaster preparedness
is compassion. The Filipino family system is strong and
cooperation is a Philippine tradition: help from fellow Filipinos is
always at hand. While the main burden is borne by our
government and people, and all the risks are taken by our
soldiers, we are thankful for such assistance as the international
community has extended. Thank you are dear friends for helping
when we needed it most.
The Philippines welcomes the creation of the United Nations
Counter-Terrorism Office to bring into a cohesive whole the work
on counterterrorism by Member States and the UN. It will be a
sharing of experiences and sober reflections rather than of blind
anxieties. That way lies real results.
Rule of Law
As a founding member of the UN, the Philippines has been a
strong advocate of the rule of law. We uphold the core of the UN
mission – to draw upon the strength and sovereign equality of its
members to achieve their common goals.
Centuries ago, the ambition for land to take invited long and
terrible wars. The battle has shifted to the seas, hence the need
to affirm our commitment to UNCLOS, as the international law
governing the rights and responsibilities of States Parties in their
use of the world’s oceans.
The issues are numerous, intertwined and complex. Territorial
claims, Sovereignty rights, security and protection of marine life
and resources, to name a few.
Dialogue, building trust and promoting cooperation to address
issues of concern is the way forward in addressing maritime
The Philippines, as ASEAN Chairman this year, looks forward to
commencing negotiations on the long-overdue code of conduct in
West Philippine Sea/South China Sea. We thank the individual
ASEAN states and China for their utmost cooperation in this
Again in this work, patience, a lot of listening, and willingness to
work with rather than against each other, is essential.
We live in a global community and we are all citizens of the world.
Today, our social contract is no longer confined to the nation
state. In our region, we exert efforts to build bridges and not
walls, to emphasize commonalities and not differences, to think
less that we are Filipinos, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, Koreans,
Chinese and think more of ourselves as Asians. Beyond being
Asians we are global citizens, the people of the United Nations.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
Human rights and the dignity of every person is the main pillar of
the United Nations. So it is for the Philippines. As a very spiritual
people we are united in believing that man was created in GOD’s
image. That there can be no compromise on human rights–of
those who break the law and surely, too, of those who are their
victims. We also believe in accountability, not least in the
practical conviction that as we sow so shall we reap.
We should never tolerate human rights abuses but neither should
we tolerate misinformation, fake news on and politicization of
human rights, for these undermine our collective efforts as the
United Nations to uphold the universality of human rights and
dignity of human life.
But why debate security versus human rights? Security and
human rights are not incompatible. Indeed, the first is our duty to
the other. Without security, the most basic human rights, to life
and safety, are constantly under attack—from terrorism,
criminality, drug and human trafficking.
PEACE AND SECURITY
Much has been said about ASEAN. Words like cooperation,
consultation and consensus are identified with it. Critics have
remarked on the slowness of ASEAN’s way of proceeding. Yet
slow as ASEAN’s progress has been, that progress has been
solid, substantive and irreversible—precisely because of the
patience with which it was made; thereby proving that consensusbased
organizations work better.
Five decades ago, Southeast Asia was marred by conflicts, and
all previous attempts at Southeast Asian regionalism proved
extremely difficult. Our different cultures and differing ideologies
and political systems only reinforced this pessimistic outlook.
Fifty years hence, the ASEAN miracle prevails with greater
political and economic prospects that have gripped global interest.
ASEAN has overcome the divisions, fears, and hostilities of the
past. We have used regional cooperation to promote growth,
development and integration and peaceful settlement of disputes.
Today, the Philippines patiently builds stronger relationships with
the international community through the ASEAN and the United
Nations. We remain a friend to all and an enemy to none—to
bridge, to build, a more peaceful, secure and stable world.
There is no development without peace, and no peace without
development. This is what the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development provides. It serves as the template of the Philippine
Development Plan called Ambisyon Natin 2040 or Our Ambition
While the Philippines has experienced unprecedented economic
growth, we are adopting measures to make growth more inclusive
by massive poverty alleviation programs, creating more jobs,
driving innovation, making quality education universally available.
Relevant education that imparts training and skill building to make
people resilient in changing markets, building greater trust in
government with the hope for result of raising tens of millions of
Filipinos from poverty.
There is a link between increasing poverty, corruption and a
deteriorating environment. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte seeks
to reverse this linkage by addressing the adverse effects of
climate change – to which the Philippines is most vulnerable –
through disaster risk reduction and through strict implementation
of laws protecting the environment.
To honor the immense sacrifices of our 10 Million Filipinos abroad
– and all other migrant workers of the world making huge
sacrifices so that their families may have a better life – we press
on with our advocacy of the Global Compact on Migration. As we
seek to improve conditions for foreign nationals living and working
in the Philippines, we advocate the fundamental concept of loving
our neighbor as we love ourselves. We call on the UN to elevate
migration in its agenda.
Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
If we listen to each other, we will hear the same thing. We have
no need for nuclear weapons. There is absolutely no benefit in
another cold war, neither in an arms race. We want nuclear
weapons to be a thing of the past and we do not want an arms
race anywhere in the world.
On July 7, the Philippines joined 121 other member-states in
securing our world from weapons of mass destruction by adopting
the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Three days
ago, I signed the Treaty. The Philippines calls on Member States
with nuclear weapons to likewise sign on. We can only have a
safe world if we get rid of all nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction. By doing so, we “save succeeding generations from
the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind.”
The Philippines, on its own, and as this year’s chair of ASEAN,
has expressed its grave concern over the growing tensions in the
Korean Peninsula because of the Democratic People’s Republic
of Korea’s missile test launches and detonations. The Philippines
joins the call on the DPRK to put a stop to its provocations, which
bring us closer to an unimaginable scenario: a war to end all wars
because no one will be left to fight new ones.
Let me end where I began and call again for patience, for listening
and for cooperation, focused always on the wellbeing of, to quote
the Charter’s preamble, “We, the peoples of the United Nations.”
Let us listen to each other as we are the people of the United
Nations. Our Faith and destiny as human beings of this planet are
In a situation like the present, where every finger in and around
the Korean Peninsula is on a trigger, every eye is out for a wrong
move, the likelihood of a surprise attack is virtually zero. In that
situation, no one can be caught by surprise and unprepared to
So what is there to lose by going on talking and listening until the
very last moment?
Patience, listening as much as talking, cooperation among friends
and even enemies: these are the signposts on the path of peace.
Peace is about peoples. No people and no country can have a
national identity if there are no others who can tell the difference.
Without peoples—each one different yet all the same in their
being and in the good they seek—it is impossible to imagine the
world. To utter the phrase “the world” means a planet with many
peoples sharing it.
All of us are pieces of a giant puzzle. We seek to be completed by
being pieced together thereby creating a whole, beautiful picture.
In a war of all against all, of everyone each against the other, the
last man standing is not at peace he is but a single piece. He is
not the victor he is simply alone.
Thank you Mr. President.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.