A few days ago, 14 Taiwanese suspected of fraud were deported to China by the Philippine government. The news immediately set off a storm of protests in Taiwan and because the deportation has touched on politically sensitive cross-strait issues, in particular in relation to issues of sovereignty and legal jurisdiction, the public and the media in Taiwan, the Philippines and China have taken a great interest. This situation will be a great test of the political skills of the three governments involved, and, because politics is not necessarily a zero-sum game, it might even result in a win-win situation.
The fact is that this alleged fraud case did not occur a few days ago. On Dec. 28, news reports detailed a large cross-border fraud ring involving Internet and telephone scams in China, the Philippines and Taiwan. The reports were not picked up by Taiwanese media outlets and it wasn’t until the Taiwanese suspects were deported to China that Taiwan’s media and government began to pay any attention.
Why? Was it because the Taiwanese government and media outlets didn’t think it important or was it because staff at Taiwan’s representative office and representatives of Taiwan’s intelligence agencies stationed in the Philippines were not paying attention? Why were there no news reports until the suspects were deported? Here are some of my thoughts.
First, there was not sufficient cooperation between the many different Taiwanese representative offices operating in the Philippines. Many government agencies have offices in the Philippines. In addition to Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) officials, there is also the National Immigration Agency and diplomatic units. The question remains if all these agencies are able to cooperate and this has to do with the longstanding division of responsibilities in the bureaucratic system.
A look at the domestic situation shows that the National Security Bureau (NSB), the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, the district prosecutors’ offices and the National Police Administration, including the CIB and all police precincts, are all in charge of public order. Before the NSB was legally regulated, its command and “integrative” powers were far reaching. The NSB’s powers were weakened after the agency was legally regulated, but the complementary mechanisms and the mechanisms that took over these responsibilities were not sound. As a result, the organization could not make full use of all its functions, which brings us to the next point.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ representative office cannot effectively negotiate or integrate different issues. In theory, its official duties are to maintain diplomatic relations with the host government, in this case the Philippine government. However, in practice, because of issues such as the organization’s functions, division of labor or systemic factors, representative offices place more weight on establishing political relationships, such as with lawmakers or politically appointed officials.
These offices are not in charge of public order or -intelligence-related issues, nor is it their expertise. That is why, unless such issues involve overtly political aspects, the top officials at representatives office will not do much to interfere. It is also the reason why it is difficult for the representative office in Manila to bring about effective compromise or integration in the present situation. This brings us to the third point.