Senate OK of ASEAN Charter seen

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SEN. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes that the Senate will approve the proposed Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations of which the Philippines is a pioneering member.

Seven of the 10 ASEAN members have ratified the Charter.

ASEAN is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“It was the Philippines that first proposed the ASEAN Charter in the 1970s. To be consistent, the Senate should concur. The ASEAN Charter is a treaty and is therefore binding,” Santiago said.

“If all 10 member states ratify the charter by December, it will enter into force in 2009. Thus, Asean will ratify its constitution even ahead of the European Union, whose charter was rejected by two countries,” she said.

Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, will submit by next month her committee report recommending Senate concurrence with the Asean charter, and expects Senate concurrence before the end of the year.

She said that although the ASEAN Charter includes the principle of “non-interference in the internal affairs of member states,” it will speak out on humanitarian or self-defense events, such as the release of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar.

“It was also the Philippines who took the initiative in providing for an ASEAN human rights body, now part of the Charter. If Myanmar ratifies the Charter, it will be obliged to comply with its provisions and all other ASEAN agreements,” Santiago said.

The senator said the ASEAN Human Rights Body will enable ASEAN to stop depending on foreign human rights monitors, and instead manifest to the world Southeast Asian regional perspectives on human rights.

“The Charter also enshrines the so-called ASEAN Way of settling differences, meaning consultation and consensus. This is the basic decision-making principle in ASEAN,” she said.