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19 NOVEMBER 2008
PHILIPPINES SEEKS REFORMS AS IT CRITICIZES ICJ VOTING
PROCESS, VETO POWER OF SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
NEW YORK—The Philippines has lent its voice to the growing clamor for the United Nations to institute much-needed reforms in the powerful Security Council as it criticized not only what it described as the anomalous voting rights granted to all members of the body in the elections of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but also the veto powers of the five permanent members.
Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, also called for improvements in the working methods of what is considered to be the most powerful organ of the United Nations when he presented Manila's position on the Security Council reforms in his statement before the General Assembly on Wednesday, 18 November.
In what has been the Philippines' strongest pitch on the issue, Ambassador Davide called for an end to "the patent and palpable discrimination" against Member States that are not Members of the Security Council in the elections of judges of the ICJ, saying this is contrary to and definitely against the principle of sovereign equality of all Member States solemnly enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
Ambassador Davide questioned in particular why members of the 15-member Security Council are each given two votes during the election of judges for the ICJ—one as members of the General Assembly and another as members of the Security Council.
"There exists no valid and logical reason for this discrimination," Ambassador Davide said. "This situation could even create a greater evil when a mere majority of the 15 members of the Council will influence the final results of the elections in the General Assembly."
"This is an anomaly which should be corrected," Ambassador Davide said, noting that each Member-State only has one vote in the elections for members of the Security Council itself, the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Council, and other bodies in the United Nations system.
Ambassador Davide, who was a former Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, also pointed out that despite the criteria provided for in the Statute of the ICJ, which only prescribe qualifications in Article 2 and representations of the main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world in Article 9, the Permanent Members of the Security Council always occupy a seat in the ICJ, resulting in and perpetuating a gross imbalance in the World Court.
"Why give the Permanent Members of the Security Council such a special privilege, which could result in a continuing violation of the representations requirements?" Ambassador Davide asked.
The General Assembly debate came two weeks after the Philippines lost its bid for a seat in the world court when Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who emerged in the top five in the first round of voting in the General Assembly, eventually yielded to the candidate from Somalia after she failed to obtain the absolute majority of votes in the Security Council.
Under ICJ procedures, both the General Assembly and the Security Council would have to elect candidates for vacant seats in the ICJ in separate but simultaneous secret balloting with the top five candidates obtaining absolute majority of votes in both organs getting the available seats.
In addition to the ICJ voting process, the Philippines also took issue with the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.
"Further to the adherence to and application of democratic principles in the United Nations, Security Council reform proposals should also include ways and means to curtail the exercise of special privileges reserved for a few in order lessen and remove discrimination against the vast majority in the general membership. A specific issue is the veto in its current form," Ambassador Davide said.
"The Philippines looks forward to a judicious restriction of its use, such as disallowing its use in cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; and disallowing its use if the Permanent Member concerned is a party to an act under scrutiny or is involved in a conflict-of-interest situation," he said.
"We may also add the establishment of mechanisms to override the veto," the Filipino envoy said, citing Article 24 of the United Nations Charter, which states that for the purpose of ensuring prompt and effective action, the Member States conferred on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
"Whether this be viewed as a surrender of part of the Member States sovereignty or as a mere delegation of powers, the fact remains that both may be withdrawn and a veto may be overidden by the General Assembly should the exercise thereof be ultra vires," Ambassador Davide said.
" These are just and valid proposals to ensure the application and faithful observance of the principle of sovereign equality of all Member States as enunciated in paragraph 1, Article 2, Chapter 1 of the Charter of the United Nations," he added.
On the other proposed improvements, Ambassador Davide reiterated his call for the consideration and adoption of the Philippine proposal for reforms in the working methods of the Security Council since this is not only the least controversial but is also immediately achievable.
Ambassador Davide recalled the Philippine statement during the Security Council open debate on 27 August 2008 where he mentioned that the Security Council must, in its working methods strictly adhere to democratic practices and procedures; observe due process; and guarantee fairness, justice and equity to all concerned.
Among the Philippine proposals are the increase in the number of Security Council meetings, including informal meetings, to hear the views of Member States and providing of full information to all Member States on issues deliberated by the Security Council. ###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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