The Philippines’ top envoy to Taiwan has not received instructions from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to arrange the deportation of a Philippine worker to Manila for allegedly defaming Duterte online.
Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo on Monday said in a telephone interview that he would have received the instructions had they been issued, but had not received any such directives.
He said that deportation is the sovereign right of the host government and is “not within the prerogative of a foreign government like the Philippines,” which the office represents in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
“The question of deportation is something that only the Taiwanese government can decide,” he added.
The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment on Saturday in a statement accused the worker of cyberlibel for the “willful posting of nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook.”
The department identified the worker as a caregiver in Yunlin County who shared videos under the pseudonym Linn Silawan criticizing Duterte and his online supporters for their actions amid an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Philippines.
The posts were “intended to cause hatred amid the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
The sharing and posting of such videos are punishable as libel under Republic Act 10175, the department said, adding that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office was coordinating the worker’s deportation with her broker and employer due to “the gravity of her offense under Philippine law.”
However, Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque denied that Manila is seeking the worker’s deportation, saying that the country upholds freedom of expression.
Nonetheless, Manila is ready to assist the worker should she be deported by Taiwan, Roque said, adding that it is for local authorities to decide her fate.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) late on Monday said that if Manila deems through due process that the worker broke Philippine laws, it can request judicial cooperation via diplomatic channels to discuss with Taipei whether to deport her.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that migrant workers in Taiwan enjoy the same freedom of expression as Taiwanese, which should be respected by other nations.
In the interview, Banayo said that the labor office potentially seeking punishment for the worker was a “unilateral decision” made by a labor attache in Taichung who did not inform MECO beforehand.
“We did not advise him, nor did he ask MECO ... for permission to do so,” Banayo said.
As a part-time journalist and former columnist for a Philippine daily, Banayo said that he would not recommend legal action against the worker, because he believes in freedom of expression.
“In the previous government in the Philippines, I was charged with six counts of libel, so it is far from the realm of possibility for me to want to curtail freedom of speech or freedom of information in any matter whatsoever,” Banayo said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is aware that Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong has weakened any possible sentiment for a “one country, two systems” arrangement for Taiwan, and has instructed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politburo member Wang Huning (王滬寧) to develop new ways of defining cross-strait relations, Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia reported on Thursday. A former professor of international politics at Fu Dan University, Wang is expected to develop a dialogue that could serve as the foundation for cross-strait unification, and Xi plans to use the framework to support a fourth term as president, Nikkei Asia quoted an anonymous source
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