Taiwan yesterday threatened to implement a second wave of punitive actions against the Philippines, saying it had failed to adequately explain its decision to deport 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China last week.
“We are considering taking further action against the Philippines if it does not recognize its wrongdoing in the incident,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman James Chang (章計平) told a press briefing.
He did not specify what measures were being considered.
Chang said the Philippines’ statement describing the 14 Taiwanese suspects as “undocumented aliens” was inaccurate because their passports had been confiscated and Taiwan’s representative office in Manila had provided Philippine authorities with new identification documents.
Furthermore, the case should have been handled based on Philippine law rather than its “one China” policy, Chang said.
He was referring to a comment by Philippine Presidential Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, who said in an interview on DZMM Radio in the Philippines on Wednesday that the decision to deport 14 Taiwanese and 10 Chinese fraud suspects to China was in accordance with the Philippines’ “one China” policy.
Later in the day, Philippine Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government stood by the explanation given by Ochoa.
The row broke out on Feb. 2 when Manila deported the 24 suspects to China after their arrest in December on charges of cross-border fraud against Chinese nationals.
Taiwan, which had been trying to have the 14 Taiwanese repatriated, said the Philippines had acted inappropriately. Taiwan has recalled its envoy in Manila and said on Monday that it would tighten visa regulations for Filipinos seeking to work in Taiwan as well as cancel visa privileges for some Filipino citizens.
Chang yesterday said Taiwan expected the Philippines to show “more goodwill” in resolving the diplomatic stalemate, adding that Taipei would continue to plan its moves based on Manila’s actions.
A resolution, however, appears a long way off, as Philippine Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday rejected a demand by Taiwanese Representative to Manila Donald Lee (李傳通) for the government to apologize for deporting the 14 Taiwanese to China, insisting that authorities acted based on evidence gathered against the group.
“It is based on our national interest to do so,” Lacierda told reporters when asked why the 14 were sent to China instead of Taiwan. “These Taiwanese nationals are part of an international crime ring so on that basis and based on the evidence that was presented ... we did what was proper to do so.”
“The evidence is in China, the crime was committed in China, so it was in our best national interest to deport them to China,” Lacierda said.
The Philippine lawyer for the 14 Taiwanese, Maria Asuncion Cabrera, said the Philippine government had broken international law by sending the 14 to China.
“They were unlawfully and arbitrarily arrested and denied due process,” she said. “We presented their original passports which showed their point of origin was Taipei, and under the principle of nationality in international law, they should have been sent back to Taiwan.”
In Taipei, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of being a “wimp” for staying silent in the face of the Philippine government’s statement that it had deported the 14 Taiwanese to China in accordance with its “one China” policy.