Thursday, April 3, 2008


President Tommy Remengasau, Jr., a Head of State of the Republic of Palau was stranded in Manila, April 2, 2008, after a US Airline rejected him aboard. The President was embarrassed after being subjected to a search by Continental Airline in spite of the presence of Philippines’ official sending him off.


The Philippines apologized on the incident and provided him and his party another aircraft to his destination.


This is a case of a failure of protocol. How did the airline managed to reject a Head of State in spite of the intercession of a diplomatic party? Can an airline be held liable in its act of degrading or indirectly insulting a president?


The Republic of Palau is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean. It is a tourist haven, particularly, scuba diving and snorkelling in its rich marine environment. It is situated some 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. Palau is a member of the United Nations effective December l5, l994. It declared its independence with the Federated States of Micronesia but remain associated with the United States in its defense for 50 years. The United States maintains its diplomatic delegations and an embassy in Koror, the largest city of Palau.


With the embarrassing situation a US airline has inflicted on the Palau President, would it be appropriate for the United States to make amends or apologize with? An explanation should be made by the current Charge d’ Affaires and Principal US Official on diplomatic relation department or the Chief of U.S. Protocol. The usual protocol and diplomatic immunity are always accorded to a Head of State. Special treatment for a leader has been the practise of all nations and is an internationally-accepted principle. The concept of protocol and immunity has been a way of extending courtesy to the supreme head long before a formal government is established. Ancient tribes even provide assistance to a messenger bringing information to another tribe and are allowed to roam a conflicting territories without fear of being harmed.


The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation of l96l and on Consular Relations of l963, provide that “diplomatic agents and immediate family are immune from all criminal prosecution, civil law suit, and other administrative jurisdictions.” The president is not only an ordinary consular agent, he is the national symbol of the State and should be treated with special and splendored manner of entertainment. The said convention, under Article 26, “Departure from Territory of the Receiving State,” further provides that: “even in time of conflict, necessary time and facilities should be provided by the receiving State to leave at earliest possible moment and in case of need, place at their disposal the necessary means of transport for themselves.”


This is to expound the principle of diplomacy that should be extended to the Head of State, although there are no “written guidelines” how the necessary protocol should be executed on the case of a president. But the generally-accepted principle is to show the respect to a leader at whatever cost.


Frisking the President may be construed as a breach in protocol. The degrading and humiliation of his post, not only to his person, is an embarrassing incident that the concerned States are bound to explain not only as a sign of retribution but to establish a precedent that it should not be repeated and let to happen to a visiting Official. Granting that there exists a conflict or displeasure the United States might have had with the Republic of Palau, it should not mean to show it that way. As Erik Goldstein, Professor of the University of Birmingham, put on his papers, “Developments in Protocol”: “The diplomatic insult today can be a carefully crafted instrument of statecraft used as a way of communicating extreme displeasure when all other efforts at communication have failed.”


As I stated, it should not mean to show it that way.


tibo_3rd said...

The Philippine Dept. of Foreign Affairs and the counterpart of Palau should file a report to the US State Dept.

And the US State Dept. should get in touch with the top executives of Continental airlines to see where the airline company erred and reprimand the personnel of the airline company.

Likewise, the DFA should get in touch with the management of MIAA and check with the local ground crew of the airline.

Rmagin said...

Thanks tibo_3rd,

It's a good advice, but tough measures should be enforced to avoid diplomatic hostilities.