My first problem with “sovereignty” is triggered by my covert fondness for analytic philosophy. I may not necessarily subscribe to verification theories, but I do insist that we be responsible for the terms we use and be prepared to give a logical account for them.
And so, when we use the term “sovereignty,” exactly what are we claiming? What counts for sovereignty and what does not? What propositions would count in favor of an affirmation of sovereignty or for its denial?
Whenever the Philippine government is called to task for the still unexplained deaths of already so many at the hands of law-enforcers or unknown mercenaries in the relentless drive against drug proliferation (itself a worthwhile end!), we cry “sovereignty” in an attempt to fend off all criticism.
But until we can give a logical account of that term, we are really using it vacuously! In fact the criticism can be appreciated as a tacit recognition of “sovereignty” understood as “the capacity of a government to make effective decisions within its territory and for its citizens.” So, we are criticized—not invaded, not punished, not forcibly enjoined—but criticized precisely because we are sovereign. In other words, the very act of criticizing is a recognition of the distance!
One more thing: If by sovereignty, one refers to the “self-hood” of a nation, then that is clearly a relational concept. Sovereignty is realized in a community of nations: not only by way of negation—State X is not State Y—but also by way of recognition and support. Significantly, one of the Montevideo requisites of statehood is “capacity for foreign relations,” and with equal significance, “sovereignty” is not in the enumeration—presumably because “sovereignty,” with its indeterminacy, covers the entire spectrum of requisites of statehood.
So it does not do well for our claim to “sovereignty” to thumb our noses at other nations or to snub them. We cannot claim the protection of an international legal order if we disregard it. And it hardly helps promote a “positive” acceptation of sovereignty as “sovereign with” rather than “sovereign against” to keep insisting that others keep off our turf. When others completely keep off our turf, we really shall have none, because, in the international arena, turf is a matter of international agreement and recognition, no matter our domestic protestations. Why can other states, particularly micro-states, entrust such key issues as defense to other states without compromising their sovereignty? Exactly for the reason I have just argued: that the more useful way to use the otherwise unwieldy concept of “sovereignty” today is to see it as entitlement to exchange and support by a community of states, rather than a solipsist stance that ignores all others!
Finally, the more touchy we are about “sovereignty,” the more we reinforce our uncertainty about it. How can a 71-year old nun threaten the sovereignty of the Republic? If we see a threat to our sovereignty in her, then probably our sovereignty is not that secure! But it is, and should be. Let her be; the Republic has greater battles to win!