The Bureau of Immigration should ban and declare persona non grata the Manila-based regional director of the World Health Organization for allegedly ridiculing and insulting the intelligence of Filipinos.
Former Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano, who also headed the influential Northern Luzon Alliance, made the call after the WHO reportedly put on leave its regional director in Western Pacific over alleged racist comments “belittling and ridiculing Filipinos”.
Dr. Takeshi Kasai, a Japanese doctor, was also accused of fostering a toxic atmosphere and a “culture of systemic bullying” particularly against Filipinos and other Asia-Pacific nations.
Enshrined in the 1961 Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations, a persona non grata declaration refers to a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a certain country is prohibited by that country.
“The Philippine government should always uphold and protect the dignity of its people. Why should we be home to an official who has abused our hospitality and insulted our people? We call on the Bureau on Immigrations to ban Dr. Takeshi Kasai from the Philippines and declare him persona non grata or an unwelcome person,” said Savellano.
“Kasai’s malicious comments belittling and ridiculing Filipinos and those of other races whom he considered to be inferior are a further disgrace to the WHO, whose credibility has been waning ever since they fumbled the pandemic response. He is a pathetic embodiment of an agency that claims to be for the good of all, but in reality is only for the good of a few,” Savellano said.
Dr. Kasai’s dismissal follows an Associated Press investigation that revealed documents and recordings of Kasai hurling derogatory remarks about staff based on their nationalities and blaming the COVID-19 surge in some countries on their “lack of capacity due to inferior culture, race and socio-economic level.”
WHO staffers interviewed by AP said Dr. Kasai repeatedly told them in meetings that the insufficient COVID response was due to “a lack of sufficiently educated people in the Pacific.”
Dr. Kasai’s leadership ultimately led to the resignation of 55 key officers. Staffers said this led to a lack of cooperation among member-countries that may have led to a surge of COVID-19 within the region.
Kasai was also accused of disrespecting WHO’s own pandemic guidelines by forcing employees to return to the office during Manila’s lockdown period and even providing confidential data to the Japanese government.
Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of tobacco harm reduction advocacy group Quit for Good, said the complaint against Dr. Kasai reflected the WHO’s “lack of transparency and ineptitude” and “horrible racism within its ranks”.
Dr. Kasai’s dismissal was only the first time a top-ranked regional official has been dismissed by the agency over the years.
Dr. Mata said the same lack of transparency could play out once the WHO convenes the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control parties at the 10th Conference of the Parties in November 2023, after repeatedly blocking people’s participation in previous meetings.
The FCTC is the global tobacco control treaty under the auspices of the WHO and governed by the COP, which is composed of representatives from all signatory-countries including the Philippines.
“We don’t want a bunch of racist bureaucrats discriminating against marginalized Filipino farmers and poor Filipino smokers who will be deprived of better alternatives,” Dr. Mata said.
Dr. Mata, one of the leading voices on THR in the Philippines, underscored the WHO’s inconsistent stance on smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes like heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes which are regulated in the Philippines.
“The WHO found itself in the same situation two years ago when their credibility took a hit in the Philippines. They previously stated that e-cigarettes are equally as harmful as cigarettes, but they backtracked during a Congressional hearing when they admitted that e-cigarettes are less harmful,” Dr. Mata said.