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Beijing shrugs off wiretap probe, says leak ‘factual’

Maricel Cruz & Rey E. Requejo

China has recently made light of any moves by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to investigate the alleged involvement of Chinese embassy diplomats in wiretapping activities.

It can be recalled that the Department of National Defense, the National Security Council, and several lawmakers had accused China of wiretapping when it recorded a purported phone call between a Chinese diplomat and a Philippine military official and released it to the media.

When sought for comment about the DFA’s move, Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, insisted that “the information released by the Chinese Embassy in Manila is factual.”

“Whether it’s the ‘gentlemen’s agreement,’ or the internal understandings, or the ‘new model’ on properly managing the situation in the South China Sea, they all have clear timelines and are supported by solid evidence,” Wang said, in a press conference Thursday night.

“No one can deny their existence,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry official added.

Wang claimed that the “persistent denial and breach of commitment” and the continued blame on China for its alleged aggressive actions in the Philippine waters “shows exactly who is acting in bad faith.”

Two House leaders have, nonetheless, joined calls for the expulsion or replacement of Chinese diplomats amid allegations of illegal wiretapping through an alleged phone call between a Chinese embassy official and a senior Philippine military officer.

Reps. Bienvenido Abante of Manila and Zia Alonto Adiong of Lanao del Sur both agreed with the recent statements of Defense Sec. Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and National Security Adviser Sec. Eduardo Año calling for the expulsion of Chinese embassy officials for the alleged wiretapping incident involving a “new deal” over Ayungin Shoal.

“Honestly, in my own opinion, we should have expelled that a long time ago. I mean where have you seen a Chinese diplomat always say bad things about the Philippines? You’re a diplomat, right? I mean, what you say should always be good,” Abante, chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights, said during the daily press briefing in the House.

“But whenever he would speak, he would always speak against our policy, against what we want. I hope if he is a diplomat, what he will do is like, what is that, that’s a shuttle, you’re shuttling between China and the Philippines. That is the work of a diplomat,” he added.

“But it’s not. This Chinese diplomat is saying things against the Philippines, so that should really be expelled – my own personal opinion.”

For Adiong, chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation and Victims Compensation, the fact that Chinese embassy officials allowed the alleged illegal wiretapping activities is enough reason to replace them.

“That’s not possible. What Manong Benny said is right, when you are a diplomat, you have to present yourself diplomatically. Why do you need to tap? What is your intention? Of course, your intention there is to… this is what is used in espionage,” Adiong said.

The country’s relationship with China, Adiong added, encompasses issues surrounding its illegal incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

“That’s not allowed, that’s illegal for us. When you are a diplomat, you have to be diplomatic, even in the way you act, the way you speak. And on the part of the Philippines, our country, I think it’s better also that we can ask China to send a better one,” he said.

Adiong also stressed, “Instead of promoting that and ensuring that these two countries have a healthy working relationship, they are destroying it by means of illegally wiretapping information that is classified, but which can also be of national interest. Maybe China can send us a better one.”

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