Written over a span of eight years, these two books are really roads to discovering and understanding how the Philippines relate to other countries and how the nations of the world interact with the Philippines.
And what a time to discover all these nuggets of true experiences and revealing facts.
Political newbies, for one, will find in the book Frontlines of Diplomacy: Conversations with Philippine ambassadors the possible roots of President Rodrigo Duterte’s seeming preference for China over the United States.
Duterte was not the first President to cultivate closer relations with China—now acknowledged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the world’s largest economy.
TRUST IN MARCOS
Maj. Gen. Fortunato Abat, Philippine ambassador to China (1982-1986), revealed in the book that it was deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos who first established diplomatic relations with China, when it was still a communist country.
“Marcos was able to get two shiploads of oil from China without a letter of credit,” Abat said.
He added that the Chinese sent the Philippines oil and also rice—all without letters of credit. “We told the Chinese not to worry and that we’ll pay them back as soon as we get the dollars, and we did. They trusted us.”
Abat, however, said that China’s trust was more a trust on the President, on Marcos. “They had a very close relationship and that is why Imelda visited China frequently.”
LIKE A COLONY
A soldier and a diplomat who helped foster the then newly established Philippines-China ties, Abat’s comments about American weapon assistance to the Philippines will be uncannily echoed by Duterte decades later.
“The Americans did not treat us well. In fact, when I was commander in Mindanao fighting the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), they did not give us the kind of arms and ammunition that was supposed to be given in accordance with our relations with them,” Abat said.
He added: “We were fighting with the Muslims who related with Arab countries. Americans get their oil from there. So the Americans were quite reluctant to support us against the Muslims because of oil.”
A dedicated soldier who secured the peace agreement with military rebels in 1995 and a ceasefire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1997, Abat also served as secretary of National Defense from 1997 to 1998.
“My relations with the Americans were not so much satisfactory in the sense that they treated us as a colony. I did not appreciate that,” he said.
Not all ambassadors had a negative view of US-Philippine relations.
Ambassador to Indonesia Leonides T. Caday acted as head of the Philippine negotiating panel for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after the closure of the military bases of the United States in the country.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it (VFA). It is based on an existing treaty, the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty), and for our mutual security.”
With regards to the matter of criminal jurisdiction in the VFA, Caday said that the “negotiations reviewed similar agreements of other countries with the United States, and the provision on criminal jurisdiction was patterned after them. So, we have nothing to complain about. Furthermore, it has been decided by the Supreme Court that the VFA is a valid agreement.”
Caday added that one of the lessons he has learned as a diplomat was that “countries are not equal.”
“Some have bigger clout than others. The nationalist cry about equality of all nations is not true. But we try to do our best. That is why we have alliances, so that if we have problems, we can depend on alliances. That is why we have mutual defense agreements. That is why we are in groups like ASEAN so that it will, more or less, equalize things,” he said.
Edited by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs J. Eduardo Malaya, Frontlines of Diplomacy is an oral diplomatic history project of the Foreign Service Institute, conducted through its foreign service officer cadetship training program.
About 31 entry-level foreign service officers interviewed 37 retired and serving ambassadors and three spouses. The interviews were done in the envoys’ offices, residences, as well as the DFA.
A finalist in the 2011 National Book Awards, the book went into its second printing last year.
Included in the topics discussed in the book are the early beginnings of the DFA, mechanics in the establishment of embassies, arranging presidential visits, globalization and economic negotiations, security and terrorism, ASEAN regionalism, promotion and welfare ot the Overseas Filipino Worker, Church and State, and the role of Embassy spouses in their partners’ work.
“It is hoped that the book—a holistic, comprehensive understanding of past external challenges will lead to greater confidence when faced with new ones in an international environment that is increasingly characterized by resource scarcity, information and technological leaps, vast migration of peoples across borders, and unending politico-security competition and instability,” Malaya said.
If Frontlines of Democracy focused on the minds and sentiments of Philippine ambassadors, the book, Forging Partnerships: Philippine Defense Cooperation under Constitutional and International Law, goes into an in-depth examination of issues concerning national defense and collective security.
The book is a handy resource book toward a better understanding and appreciation of complex issues like the conflicting territorial and maritime claims on the South China Sea.
It examines issues of national defense and collective security and their foundations in the Philippine Constitution, laws and jurisprudence, as well as international law.
Expository in character, the book provides an enlightened discussion on the constitutional provisions relating to national defense and security, as well as the conduct of defense cooperation and engagements with other countries.
Authored by J. Eduardo Malaya and Maria Antonina Mendoza-Oblena, Forging Partnerships was published by the Foreign Service Institute and the University of the Philippines Law Center.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eduardo Malaya was designated as Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in April 2017.
A career member of the Philippine Foreign Service since 1986, he served as Ambassador of the Philippines to Malaysia from September 2011 to March 2017.
Malaya served as Foreign Affairs Spokesman and concurrently Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs from February 2009 to September 2011, and Assistant Secretary for Policy Planning from March 2007 to January 2009.
He earlier served at the Philippine missions in New York, Brussels, Chicago and San Francisco.
Two offices he headed received the DFA “Best Organization” Award in successive years—the DFA Office of Legal Affairs in 2012 and the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 2013.
He was accorded the Order of Sikatuna, rank of Datu (Grand Cross-Gold Distinction), in 2010 by President Arroyo and the Order of Mabini (Gawad Mabini) in 2016 by President Benigno S. Aquino III. He is also a recipient of two Presidential Citations—from President Fidel V. Ramos in 1995 and from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2010.
The House of Representatives passed House Resolution No. 34 on 25 January 2017 commending then Ambassador Malaya for his “pro-active work, community outreach and leadership,” notably in the P11 Million renovation of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur (at no cost to the Philippine Government), which he undertook with benefactor Architect Bart Vista.
He is the author/editor of five books: “Forging Partnerships: Philippine Defense Cooperation under Constitutional and International Laws” (Foreign Service Institute/ University of the Philippines Law Center, 2017); “Philippine-Malaysia Agreements 1962-2014: Cornerstones of a Partnership”(2015); “Frontlines of Diplomacy: Conversations with Philippine Ambassadors” (Anvil Publishing, 2011); “Philippine Treaties Index, 1946-2010” (Philippine Foreign Service Institute, 2010); and “So Help Us God: The Presidents of the Philippines and their Inaugural Addresses” (Anvil Publishing, 2004).
“Frontlines of Diplomacy” was a Finalist for the 2013 National Book Awards (Professions Category) under the auspices of the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle.
His commentaries and articles have been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, the Philippine Law Journal and New Straits Times (Malaysia), among others.
He has BA Economics (cum laude) and Juris Doctor (law) degrees, both from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He is a member of the Philippine Bar.
Married to Rena Cristina, an obstetrician-gynecologist, he has three children—Mark Edward, Jana Ariana and Adrian Edward.