Taiwan refutes Philippine claim that China has say in OFW's fate

Taiwan tells Philippines to 'face up to the facts and stop misrepresenting Taiwan as part of China'

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Joanne Ou. (MOFA photo)

Joanne Ou. (MOFA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Wednesday (April 29) rejected a Philippine official's claims that China has any say over the fate of a Filipina caregiver in Taiwan who has been critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Wednesday, Philippine Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque's claimed that the deportation of the caregiver would be up to Taiwan and China to decide, because "Taiwan is part of China," reported CNA. That evening, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) responded by making it clear that Taiwan is a "sovereign and independent country and has never been part of China."

Ou went on to say, "The People's Republic of China has not ruled Taiwan for a single day, and only the democratically elected government of Taiwan can represent the 23 million people of Taiwan internationally," reported EBC News. Ou said that the country expresses "strong dissatisfied [sic] and deep regret" that Philippine government officials have wrongly claimed that Taiwan is a part of China.

She said that MOFA has instructed its representative office in the Philippines to lodge a formal protest with the Philippine government and that it has solemnly called on officials of that government to "face up to the facts and stop misrepresenting Taiwan as part of China."

Ou pointed out that Taiwan is a free, democratic country that follows the rule of law country and that the rights and interests of foreign migrant workers in Taiwan, including freedom of speech, are protected by laws and regulations. No person or organization has the right to directly put pressure on migrant workers themselves or their employers or intermediaries, and the government cannot deport them without violating these laws and regulations, she said.

Ou added that if the judicial authorities of the Philippines find that a migrant worker has committed a crime, in accordance with due process of law, they should submit a request for mutual legal assistance to the Taiwanese government through diplomatic channels. She said that under this circumstance, Taiwan can negotiate with the Philippine government on how to handle the matter according to relevant agreements.

The MOFA spokeswoman emphasized that the Philippines is one of the countries in Taiwan's "New Southbound Policy" and that the economic and trade exchanges between the two sides are increasingly close. Based on the principle of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit, Taiwan and the Philippines should actively communicate and forge friendly and cooperative relations, she stated.

The Filipina in question, who goes by the Facebook handle Linn Silawan and works as a caregiver in Taiwan's Yunlin County, recently posted a three-minute video on the social media platform in which she complained about the harsh measures Duterte's government has imposed 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.

On Saturday (April 25), Labor Attaché Fidel Macauyag announced that the woman 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. MOFA on Monday (April 27) responded by saying 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.

Angelito T. Banayo, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on Tuesday (April 28) said that he had not received any instructions from the Philippine government to have the woman deported and that the labor attaché had unilaterally taken action. When questioned about Banayo's statement on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told ABS-CBN News that the Philippine government would "leave the Filipino caregiver to the jurisdiction of Taiwanese authorities because deportation is really a decision to be made by Taiwanese authorities, which forms part of China."