Senate sends ‘polite invitation’ to Chinese embassy officials

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate panel cannot compel Chinese embassy officials to attend its investigation into the alleged wiretapping incident, Sen. Francis Tolentino admitted yesterday.

Tolentino said a “polite invitation” has been sent to the Chinese embassy by the joint committees on national defense and security, peace, unification and reconciliation; foreign relations; and science and technology, to be presided over by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. The hearing is set for Wednesday.

“A polite invitation has been sent to the Chinese ambassador and consul general of China… We can’t compel the Chinese ambassador to appear because there are diplomatic protocols as provided in the Geneva Convention. They also have rights,” the senator said in an interview over dzBB.

He noted that while an invitation has been sent, “We cannot compel them to attend. We signed the Geneva Convention in 1965 and China in 1975, so we show that we respect international law.”

“They are the ones who confirm that there should be no wiretapping,” Tolentino added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice said last week they were looking into alleged illegal activities by foreign diplomats, following calls to probe China’s possible violations of the Anti-Wiretapping Act and diplomatic protocols.

Tolentino said he filed the resolution to establish “how the wiretapping law can be strengthened, the development of technology today requires a continuous update of the law, which is the point of the investigation not only in the wiretapping law, but also in the cybercrime law.”

He said, so far, Estrada’s committee has yet to issue any notice of postponement or rescheduling. He said he would seek the ruling of the panel whether there would be a need for an executive session.

Tolentino said the main objective of the Senate investigation is not the content of whether it is true that there is a new model involving the resupply mission in the West Philippine Sea. “What we are talking about here is whether there is a violation or violation of anti-wiretapping, so I filed Senate Resolution 1023 to find out if the Chinese embassy violated the law of the Philippines.

“It is important for us to know, because it is the duty of the leaders of a country to convey to our countrymen the direction of our foreign policy, because we are all at stake here, not only fishermen, but also the integrity of our country. So, all of this must be transparent,” he added.

“Wiretapping is a different issue. The issue is, foreign embassies in our country have no right to violate our hospitality. They’re not supposed to be here to conduct espionage,” Tolentino said.

He pointed out that there is the so-called diplomatic immunity, which could not be invoked when the law of the land is violated.

“There is immunity for the normal operation of the embassy, there is no immunity for violating our laws. Even in New York, diplomats are arrested for illegal parking. When you violate the laws of the host country, it’s different,” he said.

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