The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it was optimistic about Manila’s plans to send an emissary to Taipei to explain how 14 Taiwanese suspects were deported to China after being arrested in an international fraud ring.
Calling the move a “gesture of goodwill,” the ministry did not say whether the visit would repair deeply strained relations between the two countries.
Taipei has recalled Representative to the Philippines Donald Lee (李傳通) over the incident.
The ministry did not specify if any further punitive measures would be levied on Philippine citizens, after Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said last week he would not rule out a second round of restrictions.
“We are closely watching developments and when Manila formally makes an announcement [on the envoy], we will conduct another review and discussion [of the case],” ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) said. “At this point ... we are optimistic.”
The ministry’s remarks could up the ante for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who announced on Sunday he “could” send an emissary to explain to Taipei “why we decided the way we decided,” the Philippine Star has reported. Aquino has denied that the emissary would be acting in an official capacity, possibly out of fear of angering Beijing.
“It might even be a set of people. It will most probably be private citizens, as you know there are restrictions in the ‘one China’ policy,” Aquino told the Star yesterday.
Philippine newspaper opinion pieces have asked their government to formally apologize to Taiwan, which employs an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 Philippine domestic helpers.
The Manila Times quoted a court insider as calling the incident “fishy,” after the hasty deportation ignored earlier orders from the Philippine Court of Appeals that asked the Immigration Bureau to “produce the living bodies” of six of the Taiwanese suspects.
The court was prepared to rule the bureau and the Philippine Department of Justice in contempt over the “apparent fiasco,” the Manila Times wrote, adding that by making the deportation, the Philippines had unwittingly intervened in cross-strait relations.
“It doesn’t serve Philippine interests to take sides,” the Times added in an editorial.
Chang said Philippine government agencies involved in the affair neither followed legal procedure nor gave Taiwan adequate communication regarding the criminal case and subsequent deportation.
The punitive measures last week, which tightened visa regulations for Filipinos aiming to work in Taiwan and canceled visa-free privileges for some Filipinos, were a reflection of Taiwan’s fury over the case and were needed to uphold the country’s sovereignty, he said.