DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.’s decision to cancel diplomatic passports for former Ambassadors, it goes without saying, reeks of disrespect to diplomats who have served our country with honor. Beyond this, it also defies the law.
No Filipino—regardless of the title he or she may hold—is above the law. Not even a secretary can flout the law according to his whims. Section 3g of the Passport Act (RA 8239) defines “ambassadors” to include those who “have served as Ambassador Extraordinary or Plenipotentiary.” This includes former ambassadors and former Secretaries of Foreign Affairs. Section 7(a)(6) of the same law likewise provides that “ambassadors” are entitled to diplomatic passports and are “imbued with diplomatic status.”
The Department Order to cancel the diplomatic passports of former SFAs and Ambassadors cannot prevail over the Passport Act, which is a law passed by Congress. This is a position held by experts and echoed by our Party Chair Vice President Leni Robredo.
Mr. Locsin’s behavior during this entire fiasco is hardly isolated. His tendency to kowtow to the administration line, despite the damage it is causing to our international standing; his uncouth, disrespectful language in social media and in public engagements—these reflect a pattern of behavior that should be considered disturbing for any civil servant, much less our Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
This same behavior has been demonstrated by online detractors, who have consistently tried to deflect the issue by zeroing in on former Sec. Albert del Rosario’s possession of a diplomatic passport—a document that he is by law entitled to hold. The equation should be simple: That passport holds the seal of our nation. When another nation disrespects that seal, it disrespects all of us.
Mr. Locsin might choose to behave in a way that does not command respect. It is, however, his duty to demand respect for our country and the Filipino people. Just as it is his duty to uphold our laws, including the passport law.