Our double-faced diplomacy | Inquirer Opinion

Our double-faced diplomacy

A keen observer of diplomacy will note the sharp contrast between our diplomacy in Kuwait and in the West Philippine Sea.  In Kuwait we used Rambo-style diplomacy, while in the West Philippine Sea we are meek as a lamb.

Our Latino cousins use the term “Rambo diplomats” to describe the overbearing role of US diplomats in South America in the war against drugs. The “Yanquis” at times take shortcuts in pursuing the drug cartels. Even then, they operate under the doctrine of “plausible deniability,” meaning that if things go wrong, the US government has an alibi. Definitely, they will not post on social media the operations of their Rambo diplomats—like we did in our Kuwaiti operation. It could be argued that at times it becomes imperative to take such shortcuts because the system of justice in some parts of Latin America is broken; the police agencies are beholden to the drug cartels.

In the case of Kuwait, the situation is different. It is apparent that its system of justice is more efficient than ours. In the case involving Joanna Demafelis, her murderers were sentenced to death within a month of the discovery of her corpse—a far cry from the prolonged trials we constantly see in our country, like the case involving the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009. Given the big number of cases involving our nationals in Kuwait, we do not have the resources to settle their problems through Rambo-style operations. The only way to settle the problem is to conclude with the Kuwaitis an employment agreement for the protection of our nationals (as was done last May 11—ED.). We were on the verge of signing such an agreement when the Rambo-style operation was undertaken.

The outcome of our ill-advised operation will be stiff. What our officials termed as a “rescue operation” for abused Filipino maids is kidnapping under the law of other countries. Members of our embassy staff who are accredited as diplomats — since they have absolute immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — will be expelled as personae non gratae. However, the embassy staff members who do not have diplomatic rank, like the drivers, will be in trouble. Under the Vienna Convention, these staff members can claim immunity only in the “performance of official duties.” But kidnapping is not recognized as an official business of diplomats. Even if we make such an outlandish claim, it is expected that the Kuwaiti government will reject it.


Thus, some embassy staff members who had participated in the operation could end up with a long jail term. The drivers, who may actually be private contractors hired by the embassy, will be treated in the same way. In one sense, our Rambo diplomats are lucky; they could have been killed had an irate Kuwaiti employer shot them during their operation because they were involved in a criminal activity under Kuwaiti law. For this reason, the officials who authorized this adventure should be identified and punished.

Our diplomacy in the West Philippine Sea is in marked contrast with our conduct in Kuwait. Our national security, unlike in Kuwait, is involved in the West Philippine Sea dispute. China has installed missiles on the artificial islands it has built, but there is not a whimper from us. Instead, President Duterte issued a statement that China would protect us.  Since China is the only country which has encroached on our territory, Mr. Duterte is thus asking China to protect us from Chinese aggression.

This is familiar ground. In World War II, Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo told us that our Third Republic was under the protection of Japan. But Japan was exploiting our country under the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere doctrine. That is our arrangement now in the West Philippine Sea: The Chinese are exploiting the aquatic resources of the area, to our exclusion. So whenever we talk of a puppet republic in our history, we should henceforth identify which one we have in mind.

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Hermenegildo C. Cruz served as Philippine ambassador to Chile and Bolivia in 1989-1993.

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TAGS: China-Philippines relations, Hermenegildo C. Cruz, Inquirer Commentary, Maritime Dispute, OFWs in Kuwait, Philippine foreign policy, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea

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