Something clearly wrong
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - October 25, 2015 - 10:00am

By now, the two Chinese suspects in the shooting of three Chinese consulate officials including the Consul General are on their way to Beijing. Two of the three died while the Consul General is now in stable condition. The shooting occurred in a restaurant in Cebu where the consulate staff was celebrating a birthday dinner. According to the waiters, an argument seemed to ensue as their voices suddenly became loud, although they could not understand what they were saying. Shots were then heard. Three people were hit and brought to different hospitals but two of them died. Authorities arrested the shooter and his wife, who also worked at the consulate. A .45 caliber pistol was recovered as the weapon used.

But as soon as word of the shooting reached Chinese officials, they invoked diplomatic immunity for the couple, effectively barring local officials from filing charges under Philippine law. They allowed the suspects to be detained, but only until a security team dispatched by Beijing arrived to pick them up and take them into custody where they will be charged and tried in China. They did request for all the evidence already gathered by the local authorities to use against the suspects.

Apparently the argument had something to do with money. In other words, it was a personal matter between the arguing parties and in no way connected to official consulate business. According to the Supreme Court, diplomatic immunity cannot be invoked since the incident had nothing to do with official consulate business. There is actually a precedent in this ruling. The couple should have been detained and tried under Philippine laws.

But China would have nothing of it. There is an agreement between China and the Philippines regarding situations such as this. This is what China demanded the authorities abide by. And the DFA concurred, paving the way for the couple to take a flight back to China. Chinese authorities did assure that the couple would be tried under Chinese law, after all, their victims were Chinese nationals. China imposes the death penalty if found guilty.

This is actually disconcerting, to say the least. What it says is that anyone from the Chinese diplomatic corps assigned to the country enjoys diplomatic immunity, and can therefore commit any crime and be free from Philippine prosecution. The shooter had an unlicensed firearm. That's one law broken. He shoots three people with it, more laws broken. Ends up killing two of them, a grave crime committed. But it seems the couple was not even bothered by the whole incident. As if they knew they were untouchable and would be "saved" by their government. I really hope the Chinese officials keep their word and prosecute the suspects. Perhaps the DFA should monitor this case.

But the question begs to be asked, what if they shot and killed a Filipino citizen? Would diplomatic immunity still be in effect? Would they be whisked away by Beijing, safe from the wrath of the victim's family and the community? That actually puts every citizen of the country at peril, should a person with diplomatic immunity suddenly decide on shooting someone for whatever reason, no matter how mundane.

Something is clearly wrong with this agreement.


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