MALAYA: ‘Asean draft charter actually treaty when ratified’

By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
Malaya
Nov. 15, 2007

SPECIAL Envoy Rosario Manalo of the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said the draft Constitution of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is actually a proposed treaty that member-states will have to honor once they ratify it.

“Once signed by heads of states and ratified through their respective constitutional processes, (the charter’s) provisions will become new obligations that the member-states will have to comply with, and that includes respect for human rights,” Manalo, who was the Philippine representative to the High-Level Task Force that drafted the Asean charter, said.

Asean heads of state are set to sign the draft charter at the 13th Asean Summit in Singapore on Nov. 20.

Manalo said the Philippines contributed the provision for an Asean Human Rights Body in the draft charter. The other Philippine initiatives adopted by the HLTF are the creation of the Asean Committee of Permanent Representatives in Jakarta which will require the establishment of a new Philippine Mission in the Indonesian capital separate from the Philippine embassy, a greater role for the Asean secretary-general, formation of the Asean National Secretariats and the Asean Committees in so-called Third Counties and International Organizations, and the adoption of President Arroyo’s description of Asean as a “politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible” community.

Manalo said writing the draft charter took the HLTF 13 meetings since February 2007, three meetings with Asean foreign ministers, and dialogues with senior officials of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the European Union, civil society organizations, national human rights bodies of at least four member-states, and several other regional bodies.

In its current form, which was finalized by the HTLF on Oct. 20, the draft charter has 13 chapters and seeks to provide a “constitutional framework for Asean member-states to work together in a rules-based environment where decisions are legally binding.” It provides the establishment of nine Asean organs, including the Asean Summit composed of heads of state, the Asean Coordinating Council composed of foreign ministers, the Asean Community Councils, the Asean Community Councils, Asean Sectoral Ministerial Bodies, Asean Secretary-General and Secretariat, Committee of Permanent Representatives, Asean National Secretariats, Asean Human Rights Body, and the Asean Foundation.

Manalo said Asean leaders will adopt a separate “political declaration urging all member-states to ratify the charter as soon as possible” during the Singapore summit.

She appealed to media yesterday not to link the proposed charter to ongoing efforts to hold Myanmar accountable for its human rights record, saying Myanmar “has been a problem for the longest time.”

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