Duterte dared: Question HK over Morales ordeal
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition senators on Wednesday dared President Rodrigo Duterte to question the decision of Hong Kong authorities to bar former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who accused China’s President Xi Jinping of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court (ICC), from the Chinese special administrative region.
“Clearly, [the incident happened] because she filed a case [against Xi] in the ICC. Our country should stand behind her because at the end of the day, she’s a Filipino citizen,” Sen. Bam Aquino told reporters.
“I’m hoping the government can throw its full support behind her, even question why she was held at the airport. I hope we see our government side with a fellow Filipino and not with a foreign government,” he added.
Held at airport
Morales flew to Hong Kong on Tuesday with her husband, children and grandchildren for a five-day vacation, but immigration authorities stopped her at the airport, held her there for about four hours, and told her to take a flight back to Manila.
Later, airport and immigration officials told her “there was a mistake” and that she could proceed with her trip to Hong Kong, but she and her family had already decided to return home because of the incident.
Morales arrived in Manila late Tuesday complaining about the way she was treated.
She told reporters that she believed the incident had to do with the complaint that she and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario filed against Xi in the ICC in March over China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said what happened to Morales and her family was “a clear act of intimidation and retaliation” for her filing a complaint against Xi in the ICC.
She said banning the 78-year-old former Supreme Court associate justice was “ludicrous” and proved that the Chinese government’s “intentions are far from friendly.”
“I call on the Chinese government to explain why it held for four hours without any explanation a former high-ranking Philippine government official and a senior citizen who simply went to Hong Kong with her grandchildren to have a vacation,” Hontiveros said.
Stand up for citizen
“I challenge [the government] to defend one of the country’s most accomplished public servants and bring this directly to the Chinese government, lest it be accused of siding with China against one of our country’s own citizens,” she added.
But Malacañang refused to question the Hong Kong authorities’ decision.
“We cannot intrude into the immigration laws of any country, in the same way that we expect they cannot intrude into ours,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
For Sen. Francis Escudero, the incident should be a “wake-up call” for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to be always ready to provide assistance to any Filipino citizen being held in a foreign country.
“I may not always agree with her, but I cannot help but admire the courage and grace of… Morales. Even under difficult circumstances, she remained composed, magnanimous and exuded a lot of wisdom with her spoken words,” Escudero said in a post on Twitter.
Consult DFA first
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Filipinos who had criticized a foreign country and wanted to visit it should first consult the DFA to determine if they would be welcome.
“If you have had a disagreement with a country you wish to visit, ask DFA first to make discreet inquiries if you will be welcome or not. Avoid unpleasantness to yourself,” Locsin tweeted.
Replying to Escudero, Locsin agreed that providing assistance and clarifying all denials of entry by any state to any Filipino was part of the DFA’s job. —With reports from DJ Yap, Jerome Aning and AP
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