Sotto questions DFA on del Rosario’s use of diplomatic passport

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has some explaining to do in allowing former Secretary Albert del Rosario to use his diplomatic passport for his trip in Hongkong, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN) Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto said some officials in the DFA could be held liable for granting Del Rosario the privilege of a diplomatic passport even if he is no longer a member of the Cabinet.

On Friday, Del Rosario was barred entry to Hongkong by immigration officials and was later deported to the Philippines. He flew to China's special administrative region for a business meeting on a diplomatic passport.

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"Baka may sumabit sa sumabit sa DFA dahil bakit nirevalidate 'yong passport niya, eh 'di na siya Cabinet secretary, di na siya ambassador (Someone in the DFA could be accountable because why was his diplomatic passport revalidated when he is no longer a Cabinet secretary, no longer an ambassador)?" Sotto said in an interview over radio DWIZ Saturday afternoon.

The Senate chief negated the Del Rosario's position about his use of a diplomatic passport, reiterating that former Cabinet secretaries are not covered by the law on provision of such a document.

Only former presidents and vice presidents can still use a diplomatic passport, but subject to the revalidation of the DFA.

"Sino ngayon sa DFA ang nagbigay sa kanya niyan? 'Di ba alam ng DFA na mali sa batas 'yong ginagawa niya?"

"I'm sure inaalam na ni Sec. Tedddy Boy Locsin 'yan," he added.

Del Rosario dismissed Sotto's view as incorrect, advising the legislator to consult with the DFA regarding the law.

But Sotto said that departments "cannot amend laws."

Sotto, who believed there was no harassment in Hong Kong's denial of Del Rosario, said the former DFA chief "does not have diplomatic immunity."

Del Rosario said he has long been using his diplomatic passport in his trips to Hong Kong but was only held for immigration reasons after filing a complaint against China before the International Criminal Court.

He also recalled writing to the DFA that he will be travelling for business on a diplomatic passport.

"Hindi valid 'yon. Kailangan nakatatak (His statements are not valid. It should be imprinted on his passport when it was revalidated)," Sotto said.