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DFA chief, VP swap insults over passports

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday rebuked Vice President Leni Robredo for questioning his order to cancel the courtesy diplomatic passports issued to former Department of Foreign Affairs secretaries and diplomats.

Calling Robredo “boba” (stupid), Locsin tore into the vice president for saying the cancellation of diplomatic passports unjustly punished Filipinos and was synonymous to siding with China.

“Hey, Boba. That is precisely why I have ordered the cancellation of all courtesy diplomatic passports because I refuse to single out Del Rosario,” Locsin said on his Twitter account—referring to former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who was detained and denied entry to Hong Kong while using a diplomatic passport.

“Will someone please do her the kindness to give her a brain? Here I am trying to do what’s right, which is to restrict diplomatic passports to real existing working diplomats so as not to devalue them abroad—and not pass them out as favors to retirees and friends,” the DFA chief added.

Responding to Locsin, Robredo called on Locsin to cancel his own diplomatic passport if he really wants to restrict the privilege to “real, working diplomats.”

“Cancelling ‘courtesy’ diplomatic passports after China refused to honor Sec ADR’s [Albert del Rosario’s] is not promoting professionalism but justifying cowardice,” Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said on Twitter.

“Besides, if [Locsin] really wanted to limit these passports to ‘real, working diplomats’ he should start by cancelling his own,” he said.

On Sunday, Robredo disparaged what she called was the apparent “knee-jerk reaction” of the Duterte administration.

Locsin later apologized to Robredo, also through a tweet.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful Ma’am. You are just a missing heartbeat away from the Presidency. I respect you for that accident of fortune. But there are things that require a measure of study & thought. Please ask me next time. At your service, Ma’am,” he added.

The issue on diplomatic passports arose when Del Rosario was held at Hong Kong for six hours, denied entry, and deported to the Philippines.

The DFA earlier admitted that it knew that the former Foreign Affairs secretary would use the diplomatic passport for a business trip to Hong Kong and did not object to it.

Del Rosario, meanwhile, said it was unlawful for the DFA to revoke all courtesy diplomatic passports under the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.

“The DFA department order... cannot prevail over... a law passed by Congress,” Del Rosario said.

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

“Instead of fully investigating what the Philippines 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,” he said.

He said he was irked by how the government was handling the situation, pointing out that Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo even suggested Del Rosario had “misused” his diplomatic passport.

“How can I misuse that passport?” the former top diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the Hong Kong government is under no obligation to say why a foreigner has been barred from entering its territory.

“The prerogatives of the host territory is absolute,” he said.

READ: DFA halts ex-envoys' diplomatic passports

READ: HK solon takes up ex-envoy’s case

READ: Barred, deported

Topics: Teodoro Locsin Jr. , Leni Robredo , Department of Foreign Affairs , Albert del Rosario
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