Why is the Commonwealth of the Philippines one of the signatories of the UN Charter on October 24, 1945

According to Chapter I, Article II, Section 1 of the United Nations Charter, “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” Also, under Chapter II, Article IV, Section 1 states that, “Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.” In these two sections of the UN Charter, the word “STATE” and “SOVEREIGNTY” were highly emphasized. We should take note that the basic elements of the State are People, Territory, Government and Sovereignty. Furthermore, in the Montevideo Conference of 1933, it added two more requisites namely Recognition and Civilization. Without any of these requisites, a nation will never be a State.

In the case of the Philippines in 1945, it is one of the original signatories of the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco on October 24, 1945. The problem was, the Philippines is not a sovereign country at that time. We should take note that Philippine Independence from the Americans was regained on July 4, 1946, exactly a year before the creation of the United Nations.

The inclusion of the Philippines as one of the signatories of the UN Charter is one of the most controversial moves done by the United States of America against the delegation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was said that Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov of USSR moved for the inclusion of Byelorussia (modern-day Belarus) and Ukraine as signatories of the Charter. The rationale behind this is that there will be more votes in favor of USSR whenever there are substantive or procedural decisions to be made in the Organization. This was highly opposed by the American Delegation led by Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. He said that, “If you want Byelorussia and Ukraine be included then we will include the Philippines as one of the signatories of the Charter.” This met further opposition from the Soviet delegates.

One month before the beginning of the San Francisco Conference, President Sergio Osmeña appointed Gen. Carlos P. Romulo as head of the Philippine Delegation to the San Francisco Conference. At that time, Gen. Romulo was the Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of the Philippines to Washington, D.C. To prepare for the upcoming Conference, Gen. Romulo made the following actions:

First, he met with Sec. Stettinius and inform him that he was the official delegate of the Philippines to the United Nations. He also requested for a Liaison Officer from the American Delegation to update the Philippine Delegation regarding the Conference. In Romulo’s words, “There had been other conferences where the Philippines was apparently inside the conference but outside, insofar as the inside stories were happening.

Second, he instructed his staff to complete the dossier of all the statements made by President Woodrow Wilson in the League of Nations. He wanted to know what happened to the League of Nations and why the United States did not join the said international organization.

Third, he studied all biographies of world leaders who will be sending delegates to the Conference with the likes of Churchill of UK, Orlando of Italy, Clemenceau of France and other leaders during the war.

Fourth, he requested if the Philippine Delegation be allowed as one of the observers in the Dumbarton Oaks. This is for the preparation for the San Francisco Conference. At first, he was not allowed by the Senior Officials of the State Department. When Stettinius learned of Romulo’s request, he gave permission immediately since Romulo was a good friend of his. In this conference, Romulo began the drafting of the Philippine position for the San Francisco Conference. He was given full powers by President Osmeña to do everything that he could to favor the Philippine position.

The Philippines and Mexico (led by Foreign Minister Ezequel Padilla) during the whole duration of the Conference have become partners in supporting or opposing proposals offered by the Soviet Delegation. One particular incident was the Rotating Chairmanship of the San Francisco Conference which resulted to the insulting remark by Molotov against the Philippines.

Here is the transcript of the interview of Romulo regarding that incident:

The day before the opening of the conference, a caucus was called of all the chief delegates. So, we met and that was when Molotov, the Prime Minister of Russia, proposed formally in the meeting that there should be five rotating chairmen, that is, all the chairmen of the victorious allies, the five nations. (sic) (Editor’s note: actually the proposal was for four co-presidents) Foreign Minister Padilla of Mexico opposed the proposal. He said that it was against all international precedents that in all conferences in the past, the chairman of the host delegation should be, and was always, the chairman of the conference. So, Molotov answered that, “No, this is different. This United Nations of all nations of the world who are willing to join.” And he said he believed that there should be five rotating chairmen. I then stood up to second Foreign Minister Padilla’s opposition to the proposal. And I remember I said, “How can a ship or an airplane fly with five pilots?” Molotov looked at me, rather stared at me and said, “What right has this gentleman from the Philippines to be in this conference? The Philippines is not yet independent. It’s only a Commonwealth. So, I don’t believe the gentleman from the Philippines has the proper credentials to be at this conference.” So, I addressed the Acting Chairman, Stettinius, and I said, “Mr. Chairman, may I answer the question of the Prime Minister of Russia?” And said, “Certainly.” So, I said, “Well may I ask the Prime Minister of Soviet Russia why Ukraine and Byelorussia are here when they are not independent and they are part and parcel of Russia?” And that was greeted by an applause by the crowd. I suppose the applause silence Molotov, who didn’t pursue the question any further. But it was decided, after a brief recess, to approve the proposition of Molotov. So, we were to have five rotating chairmen. One day, one chairman; the other day,, so on. And that was what was decided that first caucus meeting, which apparently, was called by Molotov in order for him to make that proposal of the five rotating chairmen. So that was the first victory of Russia in the conference.

With American support and Gen. Romulo’s articulation, the Philippines has become one of the original members of the United Nations on October 24, 1945.

References:

  1. United Nations Charter
  2. Montevideo Conference of Latin American States of 1933
  3. United Nations Oral History Project: Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, October 30, 1982, Dag Hammarskjold Library
  4. United Nations Oral History Project: Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, November 17, 1982, Dag Hammarskjold Library
  5. Truman Library
  6. Eisenhower Library
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