By Raïssa Robles
Ordinarily, consular officials enjoy only limited diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. This means they can be criminally prosecuted in Philippine courts, unlike diplomats who enjoy full immunity.
However, a 2009 agreement – signed by the Arroyo government represented by Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, and the People’s Republic of China represented by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi – broadened the diplomatic immunity of consular officials and their relatives of both countries. The agreement gave them full diplomatic immunity.
My thanks to the high government official who explained to me why China could invoke full diplomatic immunity in the double murder case in Cebu City involving Chinese consular officials and the spouse of one of them.
The official (not from the Palace) explained to me that Section 34 gives consular officials immunity from “judicial and administrative jurisdiction”.
Section 35 states that “a consular officer is under no obligation to give evidence as a witness.” However, the immunity does not extend to the administrative, technical or service staff.
Section 41 extends full diplomatic immunity to family members of consular officers.
My highly knowledgeable source told me the immunity is enjoyed by consular officials of both China and the Philippines.
I must confess, this is the first time I heard of this agreement and saw the entire agreement.
The agreement has become important in the light of the shooting in Cebu City, which left two consular officers dead and two others wounded.
Here is my story on the matter. And you can read the text of our counsular agreement with China below that:
China invokes immunity for all consulate staff related to fatal shooting in Cebu
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 6:14pm
Raissa Robles in Manila
Beijing has invoked diplomatic immunity for all its staff involved in the investigation into the killing of two Chinese diplomats in Cebu city in the Philippines.
Mayor Mike Rama, who met China’s envoy to the country, ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Wednesday night, told the radio station DZMM the Chinese authorities had invoked diplomatic immunity.
A senior government official confirmed the Chinese government had taken the step.
Two suspects, Guo Jing and her husband, Li Qingliang, were taken into custody after the shooting at a Cebu restaurant on Wednesday afternoon. Guo works in the visa section of the consulate, a source earlier told the South China Morning Post.
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