MECO exec apologizes to Taiwan over OFW deportation issue
MANILA, Philippines — Manila’s representative in Taiwan has apologized to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for the statement released by a Philippine labor official seeking the deportation of a Filipina caregiver who was critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) chairman and resident representative Angelito Banayo issued the apology before Taiwan’s MOFA reportedly rejected the move to deport the overseas Filipino worker.
In a statement last April 25, Philippine Labor Attaché in Taichung Fidel Macauyag said he sought the deportation of caregiver Elanel Ordidor for alleged cyber libel over her social media posts against Duterte which he said “intended to cause hatred” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I learned about the press statement issued in Manila, I immediately got in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to apologize for the wording of whatever statement it was that talks about deportation,” Banayo said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.
“…Deportation is the sovereign privilege of the host country. nothing we can do about their decisions on deportation,” he added.
Banayo said that after this, Taiwan’s MOFA released a statement which “invoked the fact that deportation is a sovereign right of the host country and that if there are any deportation proceedings they will have to go through a mutual legal assistance agreement.”
Banayo explained that any request for deportation needs to undergo a process under the mutual legal assistance agreement between MECO, the Philippines’ de facto embassy in Taiwan, and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila.
According to Banayo, Macauyag’s action against Ordidor was made “unilaterally” after a labor official in Manila alerted him about the caregiver’s social media posts.
“There was never any request from the Philippine government to deport Ms. Ordidor,” he said.
Banayo added that he was able to talk with Macauyag who “apologized for his errors.”
No curtailment of the freedom of expression
Banayo admitted that the incident involving Ordidor may have left the impression that Filipinos abroad could no longer be critical of the Philippine government.
“That is a regrettable offshoot of this,” he said.
But he assured that he would not support any curtailment of the freedom of expression among Filipinos in Taiwan.
“I’d like to assure our countrymen in Taiwan, 160,000 of them…I would be the last person to countenance any curtailment of the freedom of expression,” he added, noting how he previously faced six counts of libel for a newspaper column he wrote which offended a top Philippine government official.
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