A view of a high-rise apartment block which was hit by recent shelling in Kyiv on February 26, 2022. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — Three presidential candidates want the Philippines to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

During the presidential debate hosted by CNN Philippines on Sunday, the presidential candidates present were asked to raise their hands if they agree with the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the Philippines will remain neutral on the conflict.

Present in the debate held at the University of Santo Tomas were Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, doctor Jose Montemayor, businessman Faisal Mangondato, labor leader Leody de Guzman, and former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales. Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos declined to attend the event.

Of the candidates present, Abella,  Moreno, and Mangondato, raised their hands.

Lacson said the UN Charter dictates that as Russia is clearly the aggressor in the conflict, the Philippines should interfere and condemn its invasion of Ukraine.

“Article 1 ng UN Charter, signatory tayo dyan ano, na kapag may ganiyang aggressor dapat may pakialam tayo. So may karapatan tayo magkondena ng ginawa ng Russia kasi nga signatory ‘to sa UN Charter,” he said.

(Article 1 of the UN Charter, we are a signatory there, that when there is such an aggressor we should be concerned about it. So we have the right to condemn what Russia has done because it too is a signatory to the UN Charter.)

“While we renounce war as an instrument of foreign policy, nasa Constitution natin ‘yan, pero mayroon naman tayong pakialam kasi signatory tayo sa UN Charter (it is in our Constitution, that we need to be concerned because we are a signatory to the UN Charter),” he added.

He further explained that there is nothing wrong with the country joining other “peace-loving” nations in condemning Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.

Lacson also praised Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, tagging him as a “living hero” and a “true leader.”

“At ako sumasaludo kay President Zelenskiy. Living hero na eh,” said Lacson.

“Tuwing makita ko siya kinikilabutan ako dahil nandoon siya katabi ng mga sundalo niya at handang mamatay para sa kanyang bayan. ‘Yan ang tunay na leader,” he added.

Meanwhile, Moreno said the Philippines should remain neutral “for the meantime,” because he places priority on the evacuation of Filipinos in Ukraine. He adds that the welfare of Filipinos should also come first amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ano naman ang kinalaman ni Juan Dela Cruz, ni Pedro, sa kasalukuyang hirap na kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayan… I think… before going to other things, we should attend, at bigyan muna natin ng panahon, kung paano natin itatawid ‘yung mga kababayan natin sa pandemyang ito,” said Moreno.

(What does Juan Dela Cruz, Pedro, have to do with the current difficulties faced by our countrymen… I think… before going to other things, we should attend, and let’s give time first to how can we help our countrymen in this pandemic.)

He then clarified that he agrees with Lacson in recognizing treaties and agreements but stressed that the needs of Filipinos should be first.

“But first things first, Filipino first. Mga kababayan muna natin dahil ‘yun ang pangunahing trabaho ng isang presidente, (our countrymen first because that is the main job of a president). ”

Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday, reaping a raft of sanctions and condemnations from around the world. The Department of Foreign Affairs has started the evacuations of Filipinos in Ukraine.


Ukrainian and Russian troops fight on streets of capital Kyiv


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