. . . was the subject of my latest Trade Tripper column in last Friday-Saturday's issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:
"With regard to the proper subject of 'self-determination', this logically would presuppose that the people who could validly claim such right indeed had the rights of an independent State at the time of the foreign occupation. Meaning, such 'group' claiming the right must have already possessed even then the elements of a State (as enumerated in the 1933 Montevideo Convention): people, government, territory, and the capacity to enter into relations with other States. The first three elements should be capable of being identified specifically, meaning that a disparate number of tribes, though bound by a similarity in culture or religion, would not be considered a State. First year law students are immediately taught the distinction between 'nations' (an ethnic concept generally having no personality under international law) and 'States' (which does). Therefore, if a people had no such rights of a State before any foreign occupation, it would be unreasonable to claim those rights now that they are working within the framework of an independent State rid of the foreign invaders. This is all the more so if the ethnic or religious group subsequently freely participated through the years in the political activities constituted under the government of the State they are a part of.
In fine, we should stop dwelling on the red herring that is 'self-determination' and instead focus on the real issues in order to actually alleviate the complaints of our fellow citizens. We should definitely stop listening to the prodding of foreigners. We do not need their approval and, although we appreciate whatever concern they may have, this is our country the direction of which should entirely be discussed amongst ourselves. Any ethnic or religious or cultural group definitely deserves the support of the entire Filipino people. Whether it be Muslims or Christians, Ifugaos or Mangyans (and, for that matter, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, etc.), all have rights under our Constitution and are entitled to be treated as human beings with the respect, dignity, and freedoms everybody is entitled to. However, we should remember that we are still all Filipinos, for which the preservation of our country, its territory, and our way of life (richly diverse as it is), must be paramount."