MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr defended his decision to cancel courtesy diplomatic passports of former Filipino diplomats, saying he wants to prevent the "impunity" of other countries in rejecting these Philippine-approved travel documents.
"I seek to prevent rejections of our diplomatic passports with impunity," said Locsin in a tweet on Monday morning, June 24.
Locsin made this statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday, June 22, said it will cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports issued to former Philippine foreign secretaries and ambassadors. The DFA had issued courtesy diplomatic passports to former Filipino diplomats based on a 1993 department order.
The DFA made this decision after Hong Kong barred the entry of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday, June 21, for no stated reason. Del Rosario suspected it is linked to the complaint that he and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court.
This comes as the dispute between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is heating up again. The recent sinking of a Filipino boat by a Chinese ship in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea prompted a tame reaction from the China-friendly Duterte government, but enraged critics such as Del Rosario, under whose watch the Philippines sued China over the issue.
Disrespecting the Philippines
"My diplomatic passport carries the seal of the Republic of the Philippines. To show disrespect for the passport bearer is to disrespect the Republic," Del Rosario said in a statement sent to reporters.
"For the likes of me, I cannot think of one good reason why this is happening. What is the real reason then for taking back what has already been given?" added the Philippines' former top diplomat. "What has changed in one long day?"
Reacting to Del Rosario's statements, Locsin said on Monday that the DFA's decision to cancel courtesy diplomatic passports is not illegal.
"It is not unlawful; it is a courtesy to those who have ceased doing the job requiring blue passports. We don't want to have them out there dishonored by foreign immigration by rejection. Just protecting national honor, Sir," Locsin said.
Rappler asked him on Twitter: "You said you want to stop other countries' 'impunity' in rejecting our diplomatic passports. Why is it DFA's first reaction to withdraw courtesy diplomatic passports from Filipinos, and not to criticize the countries committing 'impunity'?"
Locsin replied: "Because I am very well educated in law. To single out Del Rosario's diplomatic passport properly issued to him but used by him to make a political statement would be impolite and unequal. So I [am] canceling out courtesy diplomatic passports to the same category of person – ex's."
He added, "At this point, I expect you to concede that, as usual, I am right; when have I ever been wrong; because I need to have my breakfast now."
Later on Monday, Locsin slammed Vice President Leni Robredo for criticizing the cancellation of courtesy diplomatic passports after Hong Kong barred the entry of Del Roasrio.
"Hey boba (stupid), that is precisely why I have ordered the cancellation of all courtesy diplomatic passports because I refuse to single out Del Rosario," said Locsin in a tweet Monday.
He added: "Will someone please do her the kindness to give her a brain? Here I am trying to do what's right, which is to restrict diplomatic passports to real existing working diplomats so as not to devalue them abroad – and not pass them out as favors to retirees and friends."
Thirty minutes later, Locsin changed his tune.
"I don't mean to be disrespectful Ma'am. You are just a missing heartbeat away from the Presidency. I respect you for that accident of fortune. But there are things that require a measure of study and thought. Please ask me next time. At your service, Ma'am."
Robredo's spokesman Barry Gutierrez responded by saying the cancellation of courtesy diplomatic passports, in this case, "is not promoting professionalism but justifying cowardice."
"Besides, if Teddyboy Locsin really wanted to limit these passports to 'real, working diplomats,' he should start by cancelling his own," Gutierrez said. – Rappler.com