ASEAN Summit

Philippine flag ‘in time of war’ shown in bilateral meeting with Canada’s Trudeau

Bea Cupin

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Philippine flag ‘in time of war’ shown in bilateral meeting with Canada’s Trudeau

SIDELINE MEETING. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Jakarta.

Pool photo

(1st UPDATE) The two leaders talk about bilateral ties and the Filipino diaspora in Canada – but that talk is overshadowed by a Philippine flag

It was a memorable meeting – but perhaps not in the way Manila and Ottawa would have wanted.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday, September 6.

And while the two spoke of bilateral ties and the Filipino diaspora in Canada, it was the flags behind Trudeau that caught most people’s attention – the Philippine flag standing behind the prime minister showed red over blue, which is meant to be done only if the Philippines is “in time of war,” according to the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

Social media posts from Philippine government officials, including House Speaker Martin Romualdez, crop out the upside down Philippine flag. A post by Marcos himself seems to include a photo where the Philippine flag has been edited out completely.

But the Palace did come up with a press release that said Trudeau invited Marcos to visit Canada in 2024, in time for the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

In a message to the media Wednesday night, Foreign Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro said the faux pas was “an honest mistake that had nothing to do with our protocol officers.” 

Bilateral meetings are events that are typically intricately planned, even though key details such as what time they’ll happen – or even if they’ll happen in the first place – are usually decided up until the last minute. They’re also interactions rife with protocol – the personalities whom the head of state or government accompanies to the meeting say a lot about one nation’s priorities.

These meetings are usually closed events, save for the opening statements, which a small pool of media representatives from each country is allowed to cover. Media reps are usually asked to leave the room right after these opening remarks.

Marcos and Trudeau have met a couple of times in the past. Informally during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand and formally also on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

That first time, however, no flags were turned upside town. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.