Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Government erred in deporting 14 Taiwanese to Beijing

(We are posting this and related articles for the sake of OFWs who are adversely affected by government action--or inaction.)

Business Mirror

On December 27 last year, the National Bureau of Investigation, in a joint anticrime operation with the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, arrested 24 foreigners—14 from Taiwan and 10 from mainland China—for their involvement in an alleged investment scam.

Then, early in the morning of February 2, all the 24 suspects were deported to mainland China by Philippine Immigration authorities.

This would have been a routine anti-crime operation by Philippine authorities involving foreigners. And it would have been another crime story in the papers that would have passed unnoticed by ordinary Filipinos.

What the incident has led to instead is a full-blown diplomatic row between the Philippines and its nearest neighbor to the north. Taiwan, greatly incensed by the Philippine move to deport their citizens to the mainland, immediately took three countermeasures on February 7: a strict review of the applications of Filipinos who wish to work in Taiwan, the cancellation of preferential treatment for Philippine nationals to file visa applications for free online, and the recall of its de facto ambassador to the Philippines.

These three countermeasures indicate extreme displeasure on the part of the Taiwanese. And unless the diplomatic row is settled soon, this could jeopardize our economic, trade and labor relations with Taiwan, which now hosts some 80,000 Filipino workers, many of them factory and household workers.

The Taiwanese are understandably upset that their nationals were deported to Beijing instead of to Taipei.

In a “firm and solemn protest” conveyed to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Donald C.T. Lee, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco)—the unofficial embassy of Taiwan in the Philippines—said the deportation was carried out despite the issuance by the Court of Appeals of a writ of habeas corpus on January 31 ordering the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director, Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Deportation and the Department of Justice to appear and produce the Taiwanese before the Court at a scheduled hearing on February 2 at 2 p.m.

Lee said he was not given any opportunity to directly communicate with our government officials regarding the issue, no prior notification of the deportation was given to his office and the deportation itself proceeded secretively at midnight, “which showed no due respect to the Government of the Republic of China.”

Lee added that the Philippines abandoned its own sovereign jurisdiction, contradicted the nationality principle of jurisdiction in international law, and succumbed to pressure from Beijing. He also said that the deportation was “very inhumane and unfair…and gravely impairs our trust in the Philippine government, as well as betrays the long-lasting friendship between Taiwan and the Philippines.”

Taiwan now wants the Philippines to apologize for what happened. “The Philippines must show goodwill and exert extra efforts to repair the good relations between our two countries, which has been damaged by the very unpleasant incident,” Lee’s official protest said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima maintains that the Taiwanese were rightfully deported to mainland China. “The Philippine government has decided that deportation to [China] will ensure that the suspected criminal elements are successfully prosecuted. It is also consistent with our national interest that we protect our country and citizens from undesirable aliens,” she said.

But the government claim that the Taiwanese were deported to Beijing because they were undocumented is disputed by Teco, which said that the 14 Taiwanese received immigration clearance at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport with passports issued by the Taiwanese government. Teco says that when the 14 Taiwanese were arrested, most of their passports were taken away by the law-enforcement officers. Teco subsequently provided the BI with all the information about them, including certified copies of their new passports issued by Teco.

So why is Justice Secretary de Lima now saying that the 14 Taiwanese were undocumented?

If the 14 Taiwanese had the proper documents, then their deportation to Beijing means that Manila simply kowtowed to Beijing because we adhere to the “one-China” policy, and because the Aquino administration is afraid of economic and trade sanctions from Beijing.

President Aquino said last week that he would send an emissary to Taiwan “to explain why we decided the way we decided.”

From where I stand, all that the Taiwanese want is an apology for the mistake of the Philippine government. Why can’t the President do this, for the sake of the 100,000 overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan?

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