Diplomatic storm over ‘shoplifting’
Posted by Admin on July 9, 2007
Manila: A dispute involving a high-level Filipino diplomat, who was allegedly caught by security cameras shoplifting at a US military commissary in South Korea, is threatening to strain ties between the two allies.
According to reports, the shoplifting case involving the still unnamed diplomat was one of the reasons why Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo made an unofficial visit to South Korea on June 15.
A report by the Korean Herald said the diplomat involved, apparently a woman, had been caught by security cameras while allegedly stealing a music player and a bottle of perfume inside the Yongsan military base’s post exchange (PX).
During the visit, Romulo allegedly met with Deputy Chief of Staff United Nations Command and the US Forces Korea (USFK) Stephen Sargea. Gen Burwell Bell, the commander of the United Nations Command and USFK was allegedly concerned over the incident and has temporarily banned Philippine diplomats from using other facilities inside the military base in Yongsan.The report said the USFK is also considering legal action against the diplomat with the Military Police.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has not received an official report on the shoplifting case in South Korea involving a “high-level” Filipino diplomat. “We have not received any complaint so we cannot investigate,” Claro Cristobal, DFA spokesman, was quoted by a report by the ABS-CBN network.
The Philippines is a close security ally of the United States and is the only country, aside from Australia, that allows the large scale presence of US military forces on its territory.
Last year, relations between the US and the Philippines were put to the test after an American soldier, Marine Corporal Daniel Smith, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by a local court for raping a 22-year-old Filipina student. Philippine officials had seized custody of Smith after the verdict but was eventually forced to turn him over to US Embassy authorities, after American officials invoked a provision in a treaty forged by the two countries, which allows the US to have custody of the erring US serviceman while the verdict is on appeal.