West Philippine Sea

DFA to probe reports of ‘illegal and unlawful’ activities by diplomats in PH 

Bea Cupin

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DFA to probe reports of ‘illegal and unlawful’ activities by diplomats in PH 


The DFA says it 'continues to focus its efforts on advancing cooperation with all countries'

MANILA, Philippines – While vowing to “continue to focus its efforts on advancing cooperation with all countries,” the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday, May 14, that it would “look into any reports of illegal and unlawful activities” of diplomats posted in the Philippines. 

DFA to probe reports of ‘illegal and unlawful’ activities by diplomats in PH 

“The Department of Foreign Affairs will look into any reports of illegal and unlawful activities by diplomatic officials, and undertake necessary action in line with existing laws and regulations,” said the DFA in a statement.

The statement comes days after Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año called on the DFA to investigate if Philippine laws were violated by officials of the Chinese embassy in Manila. 

Last week, the Chinese embassy released to select papers a purported recording of a conversation between a Chinese diplomat and Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos on a supposed agreement to ease tensions in Ayungin Shoal, a feature in the West Philippine Sea. 

Based on the supposed recording, parts of which were reported by Manila-based The Manila Times and Manila Bulletin, Carlos allegedly agreed to terms that China imposed on Philippine resupply missions to the shoal. China said both Teodoro and Año knew of his arrangement – a claim the two officials deny. 

The DFA has said that only President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as chief executive, may enter into bilateral deals of this sort, and that no agreement was made by a cabinet-ranked Philippine official. 

Teodoro and Año would later cry foul over the purported recording, pointing out that it violated Philippine anti-wiretapping laws – even as they doubted and dismissed its authenticity. 

The DFA earlier said that diplomats are expected to abide by international law, including “including the United Nations Charter, the Vienna Conventions governing inter-state relations, and in the maritime domain the 1982 UNCLOS, among others.”

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 states that diplomats must follow local laws, should not “interfere in the internal affairs of that State,” and should course official business only through the DFA “or such other ministry as may be agreed.” 

Said the DFA in its May 13 statement: “Foreign diplomats accredited to the Philippines are accorded the necessary liberties to conduct their diplomatic duties, with the expectation that they, in turn, will conduct their diplomatic activities with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, in pursuit of common interests and mutually beneficial outcomes.”

Phone call recording and wire tapping claims are only the latest in the word war between the Philippines and China, primarily over Manila’s now-found vigor in publicizing its efforts to assert its sovereign rights and sovereignty claims in the West Philippine Sea. 

At the center of this latest tiff is the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era warship ran aground in 1999 on Ayungin Shoal. The makeshift military outpost, created in response to China’s militarization of nearby Mischief Reef, has been constantly manned since. 

Missions to rotate personnel and bring supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre are often thwarted – the China Coast Guard has used water cannons on Philippine vessels several times, including the two times that Carlos himself was on board. 

Carlos has yet to comment on the Chinese embassy’s allegations after going on leave just days before claims of a recorded phone call made headlines. – Rappler.com 

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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.