This refers to the letter “In defense of a deceased envoy” by Fernand Tanguay (Inquirer, 11/16/12). As one of those who filed the complaint against the illegal operation of the Tamaraw Club in the Philippine Embassy in Moscow, I had first-hand knowledge of the facts of the case. I am taking exception to Tanguay’s allegations on the following points:
1. The Tamaraw Club operated without the authority of the foreign secretary. In fact, the Department of Foreign Affairs was not aware about the operation of the club until we exposed it.
2. The club, owned by Galaxy International Company, was actually a restaurant run for profit. The profits from its operation, estimated at $10,000 per month, were pocketed by Galaxy.
3. Other embassy clubs in Moscow, like the American Club, were owned by their members. Only members and their guests could use club facilities. The Tamaraw Club was open to the public. Save for two employees of the Philippine Embassy, none of our embassy staff was a member of the club.
4. The Tamaraw Club engaged in technical smuggling. Massive amounts of foodstuff and drinks were imported tax-free under diplomatic privilege and then resold by the club for profit. This was made easier because two of Galaxy’s employees were accredited by Ambassador Alejandro B. Melchor Jr. as “ministers,” again without DFA’s authority. (“Minister” is a senior diplomatic rank and requires presidential appointment.) The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides that all goods imported under diplomatic privilege should only be for consumption by the diplomatic staff. Tanguay should know this rule since he teaches international law.
5. The security of the embassy was compromised because of the operation of the Tamaraw Club. The personnel operating it lived in the embassy building and had access to all parts of the embassy 24/7. All of us serving in Moscow had Nica (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) clearance. The club’s employees did not have any. Ditto the foreigners who came in and out of the embassy at all hours. Public access to the premises of the embassy should be limited.
The Tamaraw Club issues are very relevant today because of the breach in security. Our current confrontation with China over the West Philippine Sea requires us to ensure the security of our embassy in Beijing and avoid the mistakes made in the operation of our embassy in Moscow.
6. Our complaint is fully documented. As a result of the complaint, the DFA ordered the closure of the club, and then President Corazon Aquino terminated Melchor’s services as ambassador to the Soviet Union.
7. The dubious operations of our embassy in Moscow and the Tamaraw Club were the subject of a privilege speech by then Rep. Carmelo Locsin. The speech can be accessed in the Congressional Record, Dec. 5, 1988.
Tanguay should submit contrary documents to back up his allegations or at least indicate the sources of the information on which he based his letter.
—CARLOS S. CRUZ,