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Diplomatic flaps

Shocking indeed was news that a shooting inside a restaurant in Cebu resulted in the death of two Chinese diplomats and injury to Consul General Song Ronghua.

Even more shocking was the revelation that those allegedly responsible for the shooting were two Chinese nationals, one of them an employee at the Chinese consulate in Cebu. Police identified the suspects as Li Qing Liang, who was apparently caught on closed-circuit TV shooting a woman guest at the luncheon, and his wife Guo Jing, the consulate employee.

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The news is that the Chinese Embassy has taken custody of the couple and is invoking diplomatic immunity.

There are reports, though, that a “personal financial dispute” was behind the shooting, with Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas telling a local publication that the fight was “personal,” and that the couple and the two officers—deputy consul Sun Shan and finance officer Li Hui—had “a longstanding disagreement over money. It was clearly established it was financial.” It appears that Song Ronghua, pronounced in stable condition, was “collateral damage” in the dispute.

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In his opinion, said Lawas, Li Qing Liang should be charged with murder because he brought a gun to the luncheon intended to celebrate birthdays of consulate staff. Employees of the restaurant said they heard “shouting” from inside the restaurant’s function room before shots rang out.

My understanding is that diplomats are allowed to invoke diplomatic immunity in their country of assignment to avoid being harassed for activities they carry out in behalf of their governments. But it’s also possible for a government to waive immunity if it’s established that a diplomat committed a crime in pursuit of his own personal agenda, having nothing to do with his country’s policies or interests.

It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government, specifically the Chinese Embassy in Manila and the Chinese foreign ministry, will handle this incident, since both the accused and the victims are Chinese nationals and diplomats. How will the families of Sun Shan and Li Hui, and even Consul General Song Ronghua, pursue justice and demand restitution?

I for one would like to see whether the couple accused in the shooting are subjected to a thorough investigation and fair trial even if they’re extradited to China. After all, there are over 100 Filipinos currently in Chinese prisons and even facing life terms if not execution, largely on drug charges, specifically for acting as “mules” for drug syndicates. How will the Filipinos’ fates be weighed against the interests of the Chinese government and that of a couple embroiled in a financial dispute and who took the ultimate step to settle their overheated quarrel?

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Also causing a “diplomatic” flap are reports that the Bureau of Immigration has issued an order for the deportation of Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton. Pemberton is the US Marine facing murder charges for the killing of Jennifer Laude a year ago.

Groups decried the BI action, accusing the bureau of helping Pemberton escape responsibility for Laude’s death, since deportation would mean the Marine’s return to the United States.

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Even Laude’s family, who initiated the deportation proceedings, questioned the timing of the BI’s decision, coming so close to the expected conclusion of the murder case.

A BI spokesperson, though, said the deportation order would be effected only after Pemberton had served his sentence, should he be found guilty, or even if he were acquitted of the charges, since he would still be an “undesirable alien.”

“The BI resolution is not dependent on the outcome [of the trial],” BI spokesperson Elaine Tan said. “The quantum of evidence in the deportation case is different from the court.”

Still, a question surfaces in the minds of the perennially suspicious and distrustful. Does the BI or the Aquino administration know something we don’t? Is deportation seen as a “pampalubag loob” (face-saving gesture) in case Pemberton is ultimately acquitted, or found guilty of a less serious crime?

At the very least, we can take comfort from the fact that at least Pemberton was forced to stay in the country and face a trial for the past year, albeit not under Philippine custody but at least under lock and key (we presume).

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Meanwhile, the electoral circus plays on. Vice-presidential aspirant Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano holds out eternal hope that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will change his mind and agree to stand as a “substitute candidate” for president. This, despite Duterte’s failure to file a certificate of candidacy for president, and his filing of a COC for mayor instead.

I don’t know where Cayetano gets his optimism. But even if Mayor Digong does change his mind, I don’t think voters should indulge his whims. It doesn’t say much about his convictions, much less his emotional stability. Duterte said it was the brickbats thrown at him—his love life, his alleged illness—that turned him off from seeking the highest office in the land. But if a man withers this early in the game, maybe he wasn’t meant to play in the first place!

For visiting disaster-stricken areas, Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas and his running mate Rep. Leni Robredo have been hit for promoting themselves. But I wonder what people would still have said if Roxas and Robredo had ignored the plight of survivors and gone about campaigning as if nothing had happened.

Even worse, a mayor has accused Roxas of “playing politics” by ignoring his office in the distribution of relief goods. The elections have colored everything politicians do these days, but I think the ultimate judges should be the survivors themselves, and whether they think they were indeed “used” by candidates in the hustings.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Cebu shooting, Chinese diplomats, Elections 2016, Guo Jing, Jennifer Laude, Joseph Scott Pemberton, leni robredo, Li Hui, Li Qing Liang, Mar Roxas, Rodrigo Duterte, Song Ronghua, Sun Shan
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