MANILA - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) denied on Tuesday reports that a Customs examiner violated procedure when he inspected a diplomatic shipment intended for the Japanese Embassy ahead of the Jan. 26-30 visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to the Philippines.
In a statement, Belle Maestro, acting head of the BOC Public Information Assistance Division, said Customs men did not violate procedure since the item inspected was not a diplomatic pouch.
"There wasn't any violation as the subject in question wasn't a diplomatic pouch, it was a diplomatic shipment which can be inspected through usual protocol of coordination as normally practiced in the South Harbor," Maestro said.
"NAIA Customs sought clearance from the Japanese embassy but nevertheless issued an apology."
The Manila Bulletin earlier reported that a certain Pompeo Manalo, a Customs examiner of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, committed unauthorized examination of diplomatic pouches for the Japanese Embassy in Manila last month.
The pouches reportedly contained, among others, the “sake” (Japanese wine) to be used for the welcome reception in honor of Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as well as a photo album collection of President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Bulletin report said a staff at the Japanese Embassy who was present during the incident tried to dissuade Manalo from opening the pouches as they were already covered by a certificate from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other relevant documentation necessitated for the release.
According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic bag or pouch "shall not be opened or detained."
"The packages constituting the diplomatic bag must bear visible external marks of their character and may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for official use," Article 7, Section 4 of the Convention states.
READ: Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations