Senator Richard J. Gordon on Tuesday stressed that the Philippine government has the final decision on issues involving the country’s sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction, adding that foreign embassies can, under international diplomatic practice, lobby and request – both verbally and in writing – action on issues of concern to the countries or nationals they represent.
Gordon issued the statement during the second hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations or the Blue Ribbon Committee on the alleged bribery by top Chinese casino mogul Jack Lam of some key officials of the Bureau of Immigration following the arrest of over 1,300 alleged illegal Chinese nationals at the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino in Clark Field, Pampanga.
He reminded Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, “As far as I’m concerned, when our immigration laws are violated, that is your call, not the call of any embassy. That must be clear.” This was prompted by reports that the Chinese Embassy had been breathing down immigration officials’ necks for the release of the said Chinese nationals.
Gordon noted that while it was understandable for an embassy to try to protect their citizens, for which the ambassador should be commended, the country’s officials should not allow themselves to be cowed when the country’s sovereignty is infringed through violation of its laws, especially by foreign nationals.
“It’s understandable that every embassy will try to protect their citizens. But it’s still our decision. Insofar as we are concerned, it must be the government of the Philippines that must determine and its officials must be prepared to defend their action in protecting the country’s sovereignty, laws and processes,” the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee stressed.
“When we run immigration, we have to do it properly. And the only point I’d like to make here is that when our people do their job, they must be supported. I commend the Department of Justice for having arrested–this is the biggest so far that they’ve arrested, 1,316 foreign nationals,” he added.
At the same time, Gordon also warned that when efforts at good governance are thwarted