Puzzling title for this post, I know. And you may be thinking: what’s the difference when both basically mean the same? Actually, there is quite a difference, a difference that means a lot when it come to our country’s integrity and sovereignty.

But to satisfactorily answer this question, we must first delve deep as to why this question is being asked in the first place and what each of those ideas actually mean.

A constitutional renunciation

Article II of the 1987 constitution reads:

SECTION 2. The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.

At first glance, there seems to be nothing wrong with this statement, other than it’s too long and crams in too many ideas (something that I already tackled in a previous post). And zeroing in on the “renounces war” part that is the focus of this topic, there seems to be nothing wrong with it since we a peace-loving country and people, not to mention we do not have the resources to wage war anyway.

But history and real world tells us that sometimes, a country might have little to no choice but to declare war if only to preserve its sovereignty and integrity. Never mind if that country has limited resources to go to war, when your country’s survival is at stake, you just have to go all out.

With such scenario a possible reality, having a “renunciation of war” declaration enshrined in the constitution is a major stumbling block towards a country’s preparations and ability to defend itself in the case of war. In effect, it unintentionally castrates the country, making it helpless against external threats.

This was the argument raised by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. who was looking to have that particular section amended when he said, “If only to delete our renunciation of war as a national policy which makes surrender our only option in the face of foreign harassment, yes; ditch that piece of sh*t.”

This leads to another point that needs to be made about a “renunciation of war” policy. In some constitutions, the renunciation of war is specifically about renouncing the act of starting a war for the sake of aggression. Germany’s constitution or Basic Law explicitly states this, which should not be a surprise given its history.

Then there’s Japan’s constitution, which went beyond it and stated that the country renounces war forever. This particular provision has been the subject of an ongoing debate in Japan to have it changed between those who believe that it prevents Japan from having an armed force even for the purposes of defense and those who believe such a provision keeps the country from launching another war.

In the case of the Philippines, never in its history has it initiated war against another country. So why does it need to have a “renunciation of war” declaration?

Always for peace

It has to be said that “renunciation of war” does not automatically mean it is going to pursue war against other countries, at least most of the time, in dealing with them. Such a renunciation does not mean we abandon a policy of peace. Quite the contrary, peace shall and should always remain to be the primary principle our country adheres and should adhere to.

But we should also be mindful that there may come a point that our option left, unwilling as we are to do it, may be to declare war as a way to protect the country’s existence and for the welfare of the people. A constitution should be cognizant of this remote but possible reality.

That is why in the Konstitusyon, the idea of being for peace is reworded from the existing policy in the 1987 constitution and reworked it to say this:

It (the State) safeguards its commitment towards peace

This at least still upholds our country’s commitment to the idea peace while leaving some room open in case the threat of war against the country looms. At the very least, we will be not impaired in the event of such a threat against our sovereignty and integrity.

Of course, there is another option: delete this provision altogether. But I can imagine the debates that would occur out of it. We leave it to those who will review the 1987 constitution as to what their call will be. But it has to be said…there are other ways of expressing our commitment to peace without outright denouncing war.