There was a surge of clamor among city councilors this week to declare a certain Chinese businessman as “persona non grata” for reportedly slapping a city traffic personnel who accosted him for illegal parking. A considerable amount of session time was devoted by the legislative chamber to express each individual councilor’s disgust over the incident, with the principal proponent of the move going as far as demanding the deportation of the erring foreign national.
Stories like this make good copy, as media has lapped up the episode with gusto. After all, China is front page news nowadays in the wake of other concerns of domestic and international import that involves China – our government’s controversial pivot shift towards Beijing, the West Philippine Sea dispute and China’s militarization of the area, the illegal incursion of Chinese warships into Philippine waters, their online gambling operations in the Philippines, among others.
Our policy makers however should thread carefully about using the power of government to bear down on everyone that offends our collective sensibilities. Due process is the bedrock of our democratic society and one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It makes no difference if a person who violates the law is a foreigner or a local resident – there are laws and policies that apply to them.
In the case of the Chinese national concerned, it has been nearly a week that no formal charge or complaint has been filed before the Bureau of Immigration which is the proper agency mandated to implement the rules governing foreigners. There is yet no basis for any extraordinary action as demanded by the City Council.
The clamor against the Chinese national should be properly directed towards the government’s prosecution arm, to urge those agencies involved to file the proper charges and expedite the case and extract a resolution. Once it is done, only then may the city council adopt that as a premise for a policy direction or to express a collective sentiment in the form of a resolution, such as that declaring the individual as persona non grata.
Another way is for the Council to form itself into a fact-finding body and investigate the incident in aid of policy. At the end of the process, a resolution or an ordinance may be filed.
We may not, however, legislate a person as deserving of punishment, not until they have been given their day in court, so to speak.