This picture taken on August 23, 2016 shows former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales gesturing during an interview at the Office of the Ombudsman in Manila.
AFP/Noel Celis
Panelo: Morales a security threat? She is a good friend, good dancer
Alexis Romero ( - May 23, 2019 - 6:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — Hong Kong authorities reportedly saw former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as a "security threat" but for presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, she is a "good friend" who once shared the dance floor with him. 

Speaking to reporters who were asking him about Hong Kong's decision to refuse Morales entry, Panelo said the former ombudsman has been his friend since their law student days at the University of the Philippines.
"She's a Filipino citizen, and a member of the bar, and a good friend of mine years back in the College of Law. She was fourth year, and I was a freshman," Panelo said. 

"Magaling 'yan magsayaw. Magaling mag-ballroom. Naisayaw ko na 'yan sa ballroom (She is a good dancer. She is good in ballroom dancing. I already danced with her)," he added. 

Last Tuesday, Morales and her family were barred from entering Hong Kong because of unspecified "immigration reasons."  The former ombudsman was also held in a room at an airport for about four hours and was asked to take a flight back to the Philippines. 

RELATED: Ex-Ombudsman Morales tags China for 'bullying'

Morales' lawyer Anne Marie Corominas has said the former ombudsman was considered a "security threat" by Hong Kong's immigration. There are speculations that Hong Kong's move had something to do with Morales' filing of communication against China before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Hong Kong is an administrative region of China.

Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario have asked the ICC to start a preliminary examination on what they described as China's "crimes" in the South China Sea. They accused China of intimidating Filipino fishermen, building military installations on disputed islands, and causing massive environmental damage.

Palace: We would protest if she was disrespected

While the Duterte administration has distanced itself from the complaint and Morales' episode in Hong Kong, Panelo called the former ombudsman to ask her about her ordeal.

"We said that we will be providing government assistance to all those in need abroad, and the first thing that I did when I heard about it coming from some of you, I called up the former ombudsman. We talked on the phone. She told me the consulate immediately called her," the presidential spokesman said.

"Others want us to fight back. But you know, I asked her, 'How did they treat you?' If they disrespected her, we would not allow it. we would definitely protest. But it wasn't the case. She did not claim that she was disrespected right?" he added.

Panelo said Morales may have been annoyed by the episode because it had spoiled her plans for her grandchildren.

"And the fact is, she was eventually allowed to enter but she refused. She was annoyed. And I can understand," he said.

Panelo reiterated that it is within Hong Kong's rights to hold a foreigner for questioning. 

"In the same way that we don't want to be subjected to interference with respect to how we treat people coming in, we won't interfere (with their procedures)," he said. 

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