In this file photo taken on March 26, 2015, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario answers questions during the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines forum in Manila. Former Philippine foreign minister Albert del Rosario, a critic of Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, was denied entry to Hong Kong on June 21, 2019 and sent home, his lawyer said.
AFP/Noel Celis
Del Rosario: DFA cannot cancel diplomatic passports
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - June 24, 2019 - 11:23am

MANILA, Philippines — Revoking all courtesy diplomatic passports issued to previous foreign affairs chiefs and diplomats would be unlawful, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday.

Del Rosario, who was carrying a diplomatic passport, was barred from entering Hong Kong and was detained for almost six hours at the airport last week.

"I was carrying a diplomatic passport and a diplomatic passport must be respected because it carries the seal of the Republic if the Philippines so to discredit the bearer is to discredit the republic," Del Rosario told CNN Philippines' "The Source."

Following the deportation of Del Rosario from the semiautonomous Chinese territory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it would be issuing an order canceling all courtesy diplomatic passports.

Citing Republic Act 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, Del Rosario said the DFA could not cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports.

"The DFA department order, which will cancel the country's passport of former [Secretary of Foreign Affairs] and ambassadors... cannot prevail over a passport act which is a law passed by Congress," he said.

Under Section 3(g) of RA 8239, ambassadors are defined as those "who have been appointed as chiefs of mission and have served as Ambassador Extraordinary of Plenipotentiary."

Del Rosario added that foreign affairs secretaries also serve as the country's top ambassador and not only as a Cabinet secretary.

The Philippine Passport Act also states that Cabinet secretaries, as well as undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of the DFA are entitled to diplomatic passports and are imbued with diplomatic status.

"The game changer is we now know that what they are doing is not consistent with the law and we're pointing it out to them. We did not realize that there was this coverage in the passport act," Del Rosario said.

The former top diplomat added that DFA officials themselves would question the cancellation of diplomatic passports as well.

Del Rosario also questioned the move of the DFA to cancel all diplomatic passports following the incident in Hong Kong.

"Instead of fully investigating what the Philippine should be doing to respond to this disrespect they are instead distracting the public by canceling the diplomatic passports for those who have been carrying them," Del Rosario said.

The former DFA chief also lamented how the Philippine government is handling the situation.

"I'm a little irked at the manner in which our protector, our government is handling this. You have a Secretary (Salvador) Panelo who the first thing he says is 'maybe it was misused' ... How can I misuse that passport?" the former top diplomat said.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier raised the possibility that Del Rosario may have misused his diplomatic passport as his Hong Kong trip was not sanctioned by the government.

Panelo pointed out that Del Rosario's trip was private in nature and was not related to the government nor foreign service.

Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong Antonio Morales, meanwhile, said immigration authorities did not give a clear reason why Del Rosario was denied entry to Hong Kong.

ALBERT DEL ROSARIO DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS HONG KONG
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