MANILA, Philippines – Filipino diplomats face kidnapping charges in Kuwait after conducting allegedly illegal rescues of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf state.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed this in an interview with reporters late Wednesday evening, May 2, as he welcomed expelled Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa back to Manila.
Kuwait earlier issued warrants of arrest against 3 Filipino diplomats while 4 embassy hires remain in detention.
"Kinasuhan sila ng kidnapping (They were charged with kidnapping)," Cayetano said in an interview with reporters around 11 pm on Wednesday.
Cayetano said the diplomats were accused of taking OFWs from their homes in the course of rescue operations.
He clarified, however, that the Philippine embassy generally doesn't respond to distressed OFWs unless it coordinates with the Kuwaiti government.
He pointed out that of 38 rescue operations, 35 were coordinated with the Kuwaiti government, and 3 were done by the embassy alone.
Rescue operations 'acceptable'
Referring to the 3 uncoordinated rescue operations, Cayetano said, "We did it ourselves, which is acceptable, and it is a duty under international law, but it caused commotion among them."
"That's why I said I apologized if our actions seem to violate your sovereignty. But let me assure you, it's in the spirit of protecting our nationals," he said.
Asked why the diplomats have warrants of arrest against them when they have diplomatic immunity, Cayetano said, "That's what we're sorting out."
He stressed that the 3 diplomats did not violate any diplomatic convention and committed no crime.
The diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait erupted after the Kuwaiti government protested the Philippine embassy's OFW rescues there.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.