PH security execs want China envoys expelled

PH security execs want China envoys expelled

05:30 AM May 11, 2024

PH security execs want China envoys expelled

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año FILE PHOTO

While rejecting the contents of a transcript of an alleged wiretapped conversation between a senior Philippine military commander and a Chinese diplomat, security officials are pressing for the expulsion of the Chinese Embassy officers who were supposedly involved for violating Philippine law and diplomatic protocols.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Friday said the embassy’s action of releasing “spurious transcripts or recordings of purported conversations between officials of the host country—should not be allowed to pass unsanctioned or without serious penalty.”

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“Those individuals in the Chinese Embassy responsible for violating Philippine laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and those responsible for these malign influence and interference operations must be removed from the country immediately,” he said in a statement.

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Alleged phone call

The Chinese Embassy earlier this week released a transcript of the alleged phone conversation between an unidentified Chinese diplomat and Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos supposedly on Jan. 3 this year.

Carlos could not be reached for comment. He has not publicly spoken about the alleged recording since he went on “personal leave,” which was announced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines early this week.

In the transcript, Carlos “confirmed” that Año and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. approved an arrangement for the resupply of provisions for troops manning BRP Sierra Madre, a rusted ship serving as the military’s outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

A key item in the “new model” was the Philippine side’s agreement not to deliver construction materials to preserve or reinforce the crumbling ship, which was intentionally grounded by the Navy on the shoal in 1999.

Both Año and Teodoro denied approving the purported arrangement on Ayungin. Teodoro added that only President Marcos could approve any deal on the West Philippine Sea.

Responding to the Philippine officials’ statements, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry in Beijing on Friday demanded that Manila ceases “being provocative” and allow its diplomats to perform their duties normally.

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Año, a former military chief, backed an earlier call by Teodoro to expel those responsible for the alleged wiretapping.

“If this statement from the Chinese Embassy is true that they recorded anyone in the Philippines, they are admitting that they violated the law of the Republic of the Philippines, particularly the antiwire tapping law,” Teodoro told reporters on the sidelines of a maritime forum in Quezon City on Wednesday.

“Those responsible must be identified and must be expelled from the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.

Doubts

The Inquirer has not heard the recording and could not verify the identity of the persons who were speaking or the faithfulness of a published copy of the transcript.

Teodoro said he doubted the authenticity of the recording, “given the propensity of the Chinese government to engage in malign information activities.”

The Chinese Embassy has not publicly released the audio recordings.

The defense chief asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to “take appropriate actions” against individuals in the Chinese Embassy responsible for the wiretapping.

Under 1965 antiwiretapping law, it is illegal to record conversations without the consent of all those participating. Secret wiretapping is also illegal without court approval. Violators face imprisonment of up to six years and foreigners would be deported, but there is no specific provision for offenders who are diplomats.

Out to sow discord

Año said that the “unmistakable objective” of the Chinese Embassy in the “indiscriminate releasing of these falsehoods and smears have been, and continues to be, to sow discord, division, and disunity between and among the Filipino people.”

“Without a doubt, these are serious breaches of the basic norms of international relations and diplomacy by the embassy,” he added.

Año pointed out that bypassing official and long-established channels and protocols, including talking to unauthorized officials, “then maliciously claiming that alleged discussions should bind the Philippine government is farcical, foolish and reckless.”

Año did not identify the Chinese Embassy officials involved in the alleged wiretapping. Beijing’s top diplomats in Manila are Ambassador Huang Xilian and his Deputy Chief of Mission Zhou Zhiyong.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy, Assistant Majority Leader and Manila Rep. Ernesto Dionisio and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante called for, among other steps, a more thorough investigation of the alleged wiretap.

If the audio recording surfaces—whether authentic or not—Abante said that those involved should be expelled from the country for violating the law. “We really should hold those people who did that accountable,” added Dionisio. “Just because they come from bigger countries, they can just go trample upon our rules.”

Abante said the wiretapping incident should spur a more thorough inquiry into the sudden influx Chinese nationals into the country.

He had earlier filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the entry of over a thousand Chinese nationals who enrolled in a school in Cagayan province.

In releasing the transcript of the alleged tapped phone conversation, the Chinese government admitted its capacity to conduct illegal wiretapping in the country, Abante said.

“This unacceptable and detestable action only serves to remind us of the need to review and improve our internal security measures,” he said.

Risk highlighted

The alleged wiretapping, Abante explained, now highlighted the risks of allowing large numbers of Chinese nationals to live and work in the country.

“The Philippines has always opened its arms to foreign guests. But if our guests violate our laws, then they should be kicked out immediately and barred from coming back,” he said.

AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said the military was not investigating Carlos regarding the alleged Ayungin deal.

“In our case, moving forward in this issue, at this point in time, we have no move towards Vice Admiral Carlos because we respect his decision to apply for a leave,” she said.

It remains unclear how long Carlos will be away.

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Rear Adm. Alfonso Torres took over as the head of the Wescom, which has jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea. —WITH REPORTS FROM KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND REUTERS 

TAGS: China, Security

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