- Bureau of Customs examiner opens diplomatic pouches meant for Japanese royals’ visit
- The pouches contain bottles of sake and other official items of the Japanese Embassy
- Examiner claimed he was merely acting under orders from his immediate superior
MANILA, Philippines – A diplomatic faux pas has been committed at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) while the Japanese emperor and empress aren’t even in the country yet.
According to a report fron Manila Bulletin, a BOC examiner is in hot water after it was discovered that he opened a diplomatic pouch last month meant for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko’s upcoming state visit.
The examiner, identified as Pompeo Manalo, opened the pouch which contained bottles of sake meant to toast the Japanese royals’ visit, official items of the Japanese Embassy and a photo album of President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The incident purportedly happened at the Pair Cargo Customs Bonded Warehouse in Pasay City.
According to Article 27.3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), diplomatic pouches which are properly designated shall not be opened or detained. Any violation of the provision is considered as a serious breach.
According to sources within the BOC, the opening of the pouch was done in the presence of Japanese Embassy officials who tried but failed to prevent Manalo from doing the examination even after they presented the necessary papers from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
When asked to air his side, Manalo said he was just carrying out the orders of his immediate superior Emily Balatbat; the head of the BOC Composite Unit at the Pair Cargo.
His claims, however, were dismissed by another source who said BOC examiners and appraisers are well-versed in the standard procedures regarding diplomatic pouches.
BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina has since ordered a probe into the incident and had asked Balatbat to explain the embarrassing incident.
It is unknown if the Japanese Embassy will lodge a formal protest. However, they have already told Lina they were “very disappointed” with the incident.