Author: Marichu A. Villanueva
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.
It’s more than two decades already since the Philippines became one of the “founding members” of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Jan. 1,1995. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an intergovernmental organization founded in 1948 whose rules created the modern multilateral trading system.
The WTO implements the Marrekesh Agreement that was signed by 124 nations on April 15, 1994, replacing the 1948 GATT. But it was only in December that same year that the Philippine Senate – during the 10th Congress – ratified our treaty commitments under the GATT-Uruguay Round. Then Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sponsored the ratification of the GATT-UR as the chairperson of the Senate committee on economic affairs.
The GATT-UR was ratified on a vote of 19 out of 24 Senators. One of the five “No” votes of this trade treaty was Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who then made a very prophetic warning against the GATT-UR impact. “I prayed that I was wrong,” Sotto said at the end of his explanatory vote for “No.”
Aside from Sotto, the other four “No” voters were former Senate minority leader Wigberto Tañada, the late Senators Arturo Tolentino and Ernesto Maceda, and former Senator Nikki Coseteng. A wisecracking ex-Senator Orlando Mercado (who voted “Yes” to ratify the treaty) came up with an analysis of the “No” votes of these five Senators. According to Mercado, each voted according to their beliefs: A constitutionalist, the late Sen. Tolentino cast a “constitutional No;” Tañada, who represented the views of the left-leaning groups against the GATT-UR, cast an “ideological No.” Maceda, a staunch opposition leader in the Senate, voted a “political No.” Sotto, representing the concerns of the entertainment industry on GATT-UR’s infringement into intellectual property rights, voted a “showbiz No.” But the usually articulate Mercado suddenly found himself dumbfounded on how to classify the vote of Coseteng, except saying “I don’t know (No).”