Taiwan says Filipina caregiver has freedom of speech to criticize Duterte

Taiwan rejects Philippine request to deport OFW for criticizing Duterte on basis of freedom of speech

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Facebook user Linn Silawan. (YouTube screenshot)

Facebook user Linn Silawan. (YouTube screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to a request by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deport a Filipina caregiver for criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday (April 27) rebuffed the request and said that she has the right to freedom of speech.

On Saturday (April 25), Labor Attaché Fidel Macauyag announced that a Filipina working as a caregiver in Taiwan's Yunlin County would be deported for "the crime of cyber libel for [her] willful posting of nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook," reported Rappler. Macauyag said that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) had coordinated with the woman's broker and employer to arrange for her deportation for violating Act No. 10175, commonly referred to as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

That same day, Migrante International came to her defense, denouncing what it described as harassment of the woman by DOLE and POLO. The organization criticized both DOLE and the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for "bootlicking" Duterte while ignoring the pleas of thousands of "distressed, abused, stranded, and neglected OFWs needing to be rescued and assisted."

MOFA on Monday stated that "Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country where foreign workers enjoy 'citizen treatment,' and their rights and interests are protected by relevant laws and regulations, including freedom of speech, which should be respected by governments of all countries," reported UDN. It added that "no person or institution, in this case, has the right to pressure her, her employer, or broker, nor shall she be deported without consultations held between both governments."

The woman, who goes by the Facebook handle Linn Silawan, recently posted a three-minute video on the social media platform in which she complained about the harsh measures imposed by Duterte's government during its lockdown to contain the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country. She questioned whether Duterte had thought through the consequences of the government interventions, saying Filipinos "would not die from the virus but from hunger," reported the Inquirer.

She complained about families being unable to receive remittances and urged authorities “not to be too loyal to the President.” She called on them to think of the welfare of their children and families and to not "just think about the orders of the President."

If she is found guilty of violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act, she could face a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine as high as 250,000 pesos, according to Macauyag.

A representative from MECO told Taiwan News that it had not received any instructions from the Philippine government on having the woman deported.