Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday said the issue is between Morales and the Chinese government and that the Philippine government has not received an official communication about the matter. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.
Rudy Santos
Palace hands off on Conchita Carpio-Morales’ issue with Hong Kong immigration
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is keeping its hands off the controversy involving former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who was denied entry to Hong Kong because of unspecified “immigration reasons” last Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday said the issue is between Morales and the Chinese government and that the Philippine government has not received an official communication about the matter. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.

“We cannot intrude into the immigration laws of any country in the same way that we expect that they cannot intrude into ours. What we’re interested in is that all Filipinos who go abroad and are confronted with problems that will affect their lives, security and welfare, we will provide government assistance as we have provided the former ombudsman. That’s our only concern,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

Malacañang also rejected opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ call for the President to protest Hong Kong’s four-hour holding of Morales at an airport.

“As I said, we cannot intrude into the immigration laws of the land of another country in the same way that they cannot intrude into ours,” Panelo reiterated.

He also kept mum on the reasons that prompted Hong Kong to deny Morales entry. “I think only the (former) ombudsman would know how to perceive or think about any action of the Chinese government against her,” he said. 

Morales did not hide her disappointment in the government’s outright dismissal of the calls to file a protest against China over her brief detention, saying Malacañang should have at least stated that it will look into the incident.

“That’s lukewarm. If that’s what they’re thinking, at least they should have said ‘Alright, wala muna tayong motion or communication (we will defer filing a motion or communication) while we’re trying our best to determine why they (Chinese authorities) are doing that.

But if the reason for your detention or for your being restrained from entering Hong Kong is really justified in light of the circumstances, we have no way of trying to convince them’,” she said over ANC.

“Pakunswelo naman. Wala, give up sila agad (Even just as a consolation, but they gave up so easily). Excuse me!” she added.

But Panelo said he called the former ombudsman, whom he described as a good friend and a good dancer, to ask 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 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.

Morales arrived at Hong Kong airport Tuesday afternoon together with her family when she was apprehended by the immigration officials and isolated in a holding room for more than four hours.

Her lawyer Anne Marie Corominas has said the former ombudsman was considered a “security threat” by Hong Kong immigration. Morales had earlier denounced the incident as an act of “bullying” by the Chinese government. 

 There are speculations that Hong Kong’s move had something to do with the filing of communication by her and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario against China before the International Criminal Court last March. The complaint is against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Beijing officials in connection with China’s alleged massive and environmentally destructive reclamation works in the disputed South China Sea. 

Morales and Del Rosario, together with Filipino fishermen, accused Xi and the other Chinese officials of crimes against humanity, saying that China’s reclamation works undermine the food and energy security not only of the Philippines but also of other coastal states in the region.

Although she was eventually released and allowed entry to Hong Kong, her family decided to no longer push through with their planned vacation and immediately boarded a flight back home.

Morales, upon her arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Tuesday night, said she has yet to study the possibility of taking legal action against Chinese officials regarding the “bullying” incident at Hong Kong airport. – With Elizabeth Marcelo 

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