By Perry Diaz
A couple weeks ago after Mike Arroyo exited the country for Germany last September 18, 2011, a Philippine Star news report said, “There is no irregularity in the use of former first gentleman Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo of a diplomatic passport because he is the husband of an incumbent legislator, the Bureau of Immigration yesterday.” Supposedly Arroyo went abroad to seek “stem cell treatment” for himself and his wife, former President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
According to a Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson, Arroyo presented two kinds of passports – one regular and the other diplomatic. The BI spokesperson said that the BI office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport checked the validity of Arroyo’s two passports and there was no irregularity. Of course there was no irregularity because Arroyo is too smart to present a fake passport when leaving the country.
But why did Arroyo present his two passports when he left the country? All that was needed was his regular passport since he was not on an official diplomatic mission. But by presenting his diplomatic passport and properly stamped that he left the Philippines purportedly on an official diplomatic mission, he could enter the country of his destination with his diplomatic passport only and wouldn’t have to go through customs; thus, whatever he’s bringing with him would not be subjected to physical inspection. If that’s what he did, why? What was he carrying that he did not want to go through customs? Was there something that needed the protection of diplomatic immunity?
A few days ago, Malaya columnist and former Ambassador Rey O. Arcilla wrote in his column, “Why the heck does the husband of a congresswoman carry a diplomatic passport? On what basis?”
Ambassador Arcilla pointed out, “The Philippine Passport Act of 1996 (RA 8239) provides, among others, that a member of Congress may be issued a diplomatic passport only when he/she is going on official mission abroad or as a delegate to international conferences. His/her spouse and unmarried minor children may also be issued a diplomatic passport when accompanying or following to join him/her in an official mission abroad. Obviously, he must have been carrying the diplomatic passport issued to him when his wife was posing as president of this Republic. Nonetheless, for a diplomatic passport to be valid for travel once it has been used earlier, has to be revalidated so it can be used again. Did Del Rosario or any of his underlings revalidate the diplomatic passport Arroyo was carrying? If not, it is not valid for travel.”
Now that the cat is out of the bag, what is Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario going to do about it? It shouldn’t take him long to cancel Arroyo’s diplomatic passport and notify all Philippine embassies and consulates abroad to inform their host countries of the cancellation.
But the ultimate question is: Would Del Rosario do it? Or is this an issue that is deemed “political” and way over his head? If so, then President Benigno Aquino III should – nay, must — deal with it… now!