Sen. Miriam’s Sister Reacts on DFA Sec. Cayetano’s Interview with Mehdi Hasan

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Veteran international lawyer and sister of the late brilliant senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Atty. Paula Defensor-Knack reacts on Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on his latest controversial interview with Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan.

According to the former Legal Adviser to the Philippine Embassy at The Hague, she join Prof. Contreras on his reaction with Sec. Cayetano’s interview with Hasan on Al Jazeera.

Prof. Contreras earlier said that he did not sign up for blind loyalty, as it applies more so to his appointees. He is taking Sec. Cayetano to task precisely because he was so ill-prepared to deal with Mehdi Hassan, whose adversarial interviewing style is already well-known. Contreras was quoted as saying “His failure to deal with Hassan, in fact, has added further fuel to the misunderstanding that exists in the international community vis-a-vis the President’s war on drugs.”

Atty. Paula Knack stated that Sec. Cayetano did not appear convincing as DFA Secretary in his interview with Mehdi Hasan, it was a lackluster interview that failed to convince legal justification for a strong hand against drug traffickers under domestic and international law.

Here’s the Complete Statement of Atty. Paula Defensor-Knack:

REACTION : I join Prof. Contreras on his reaction to this interview. We are not blind followers, we are political analysts and in my case, former Legal Adviser to the PH Embassy at The Hague. Diplomats at The Hague have very high standards, which is the world’s center in international law. Same with New York and Geneva.

Cayetano did NOT appear convincing as DFA Secretary in his interview with Mehdi Hassan. This was a lackluster interview that failed to convince legal justification for a strong hand against drug traffickers under domestic and international law. A DFA Secretary is the highest representation of foreign policy among the President’s delegates. He is the President’s alter ego abroad.

Take note, this was not a local talk show. He is not talking as a blogger but as alter ego of the President. But this interview did not erase uncertainties on the legal basis for the drug war.

All arguments whether on terrorism or drug wars must find LEGAL BASIS. I did not hear anything , NOT A LEGAL ARGUMENT on peace and security (drug wars, terrorism) under international law. This is the DFA Secretary who is a lawyer. His recitation of facts does not convince a lawyer either. What happened to international law and international precedents on peace and security issues ?

Contreras is right. It fueled doubts on the legality of the drug war, because he was NOT arguing as a lawyer. Cayetano’s arguments were similar to an online blogger only.

1. Let us start with initial shock : While Sen. Cayetano remained calm, his defense of the drug war did not convince me, as an observer, much less as a lawyer. You see, his very mild personality on one hand, seemed the exact opposite of Pres. Duterte and THEN this raucous host keeps hammering him. I seemed to have cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile these 2 images. I wished there was a more seasoned official (not necessarily from the DFA) who faced this journalist. Even a military official or a Presidential Adviser would have done better. Why not AFP Undersecretary (former Gen. Cardozo Luna) who was former Ambassador to The Hague or Gen. Benjamin P. Defensor, Presidential Adviser on Counter-terrorism and former Ambassador -at-Large (APEC) during GMA’s administration ? These 2 are seasoned in peace and security issues and have been ambassadors. You cant mess up with these 2 officials even in the face of heavy-hitting journalists.

2. Cayetano said : “Last time, I checked, hyperbole was allowed.”
Relevance ? Relevance to legal arguments ? Relevance to foreign policy ?

3. Cayetano said : “no, thats not true.” (several times)
Why not ASK HIM DIRECTLY WHERE HE GOT THE FIGURES AND HIT THE SOURCE ? THINK OF THE STANDARDS employed by the UNHRC itself. Does it conform to those established standards and principles ? READ.

4. WHY WAS CAYETANO APPEARING DEFENSIVE rather than sure of his facts and figures ? 

5. I did not hear about positions in INTERNATIONAL LAW on tensions betweeen peace and security & human rights (terrorism and drug wars included). READ. When are there justifiable limits on human rights ?

6. Why is he allowing this journalist to badger him ? Remember what the former ICC Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo said about his rejection of drug wars in case selection. USE IT ! You can remain calm but your arguments must be well researched and the hierarchy must be convincing. There is no substitute for thorough research in debates/interviews. If your briefing papers are not from experts, the results do not convince an international audience. INTERNATIONAL LAW AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Cayetano should do better next time. If he performs this way and runs for higher office next time, I doubt Filipinos want this kind of leadership.

Source: Atty. Paula-Knack FB Page

Ed Umbao

Founder of | co-Founder of

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