“Will someone give her the kindness to give her a brain?”-- Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. on Twitter, June 24, 2019
The risk in insulting someone about intelligence is when one’s basis for the insult is itself flawed and may be non-intelligent.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. called Vice President Leni Robredo a “boba”--Tagalog for “dumb, stupid”--because she criticized his cancellation of diplomatic passports of retired ambassadors after Hong Kong denied last June 21 entry into Hong Kong by ex-foreign affairs chief and China critic Albert del Rosario.
Locsin ordered the cancellation of all courtesy diplomatic passports “precisely because” he “refused to single out del Rosario,” Locsin condescendingly pointed out, as if missing that was gross stupidity.
But Robredo wasn’t just defending del Rosario. She s was assailing the legality of Locsin’s order which amounted to a shotgun blast at the country’s former ambassadors.
What the law says
Republic Act 8239 or Philippine Passport Act provides the grounds for revocation of passports and they include only conviction of a crime, being a fugitive of justice, and fraud in securing the passport. The same law also enumerates the persons entitled to a diplomatic passport and they include ambassadors, “a privilege to those who served the country,” as one retired ambassador explained.
Del Rosario was granted the privilege. It was legally and validly issued and had not been revoked for any of the grounds the law lists down. The government, specifically the department headed by Locsin, was duty bound to defend the rights that the valid passport under international law gave its holder.
Instead of doing so, Locsin cancelled the diplomatic passports of former ambassadors, implying that they didn’t deserve the privilege and abused its use. The law has to be amended to delist retired ambassadors and include in the grounds of cancellation the discretion of the foreign affairs chief. In answering Robredo, he also sidetracked the main issue: Hong Kong’s treatment of a Filipino citizen and former high official and disrespect to the passport the government issued to him.
Fitness for the job
Was Locsin just trying to sound and look colorful? Malacañang cited that to justify Locsin’s behavior. Behaving like the President, intended or not, comes out as flattery to the boss.
On top of the justification, Palace communicators added, Locsin wouldn’t have been appointed if he were unfit for the office. Right? Wrong, because the appointing authority can err in its choice. Even if the right choice is made, the appointee may misbehave once he is in office.
That many officials have been sacked by Duterte for corruption or ineptness attests that picking appointive officials is fallible and officials “fit for the office” may still misbehave or err. And people change: Locsin the government functionary may no longer be the Locsin they knew and admired: the elected congressman and respected print and broadcast journalist.
What apology meant
A half hour or so after he called Vice President Robredo “bobo” in his June 24 tweet, Locsin apologized but even the apology dripped with sarcasm:
“I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, Ma’am,” he said on Twitter. “You are just a missing heartbeat away from the President.” And then this: “I respect you for that accident of fortune. But there are things that require a measure of study & thought. Please ask me next time. At your service, Ma’am.”
In sum, what did Locsin’s apology mean?
Robredo could be the next President, which would be another “accident of fortune” for her. On the del Rosario mess, she didn’t “study and think” and he did. Sorry for calling her a “boba” but not thinking it out was pretty dumb–and she could ask him to do it for her next time.
And no, the apology didn’t say Locsin no longer thought VP Leni was not a “boba.”