No plans to deport Filipino accused of 'libel': labor chief

04/29/2020 07:32 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purposes only.
CNA file photo for illustrative purposes only.

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) A Filipino migrant worker in Taiwan accused of "libeling" Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte online will not be deported and will continue to work as a caregiver in the southern county of Yunlin, the county's labor affairs chief said Wednesday.

Yunlin County Labor Affairs Department Director-General Chang Shih-chung (張世忠) made the comments after holding talks with the female migrant worker, her lawyer, Taiwanese employer and broker at the county government early Wednesday.

During the talks, Chang said the woman's employer and broker said they had no intention of terminating her contract or seeking her deportation to Manila through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the Philippines de facto embassy in Taiwan.

Officials at the labor affairs department told the Philippine national that all migrant workers in Taiwan enjoy freedom of expression and are equal under the law.

As a country ruled by laws, Taiwan will not deport a migrant worker back to his or her home country without due cause and as long as the caregiver does not violate local laws during her time in Taiwan, the county government will protect her right to work.

Chang also said the county is asking the police to increase patrols where the woman lives after her online remarks drew some angry responses.

Chang made the comments in the wake of a statement from the Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Saturday that accused the female worker of cyber libel for the "willful posting of nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook."

The DOLE statement identified the worker as a caregiver employed in Yunlin County who shared videos under the pseudonym Linn Silawan, criticizing Duterte and his online supporters for their actions during the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines.

According to the statement, the sharing and posting of such videos are punishable for libel under Republic Act 10175, adding that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) had "coordinated with her broker and employer on her deportation" due to the gravity of her offense under Philippine Law.

However, Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque later denied that Manila is seeking the deportation of the worker, arguing that the country upholds freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said late Monday that if Manila deemed the person in question to have violated Philippine law, it can request judicial cooperation via diplomatic channels.

The ministry also said migrant workers in Taiwan enjoy the same freedom of expression as Taiwanese citizens, a situation that should be respected by foreign countries.

During an interview with CNA Tuesday, the Philippines' top envoy to Taiwan, MECO chairman Angelito T. Banayo, said he has received no instructions from the presidential office to seek the deportation of the Philippine national in question.

Banayo also stressed that DOLE's statement on seeking the deportation of the woman was a "unilateral decision" set in motion by a DOLE labor attaché stationed in Taichung who did so without informing MECO beforehand.

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel of the Philippines earlier Wednesday, the MECO head added that he has apologized to Taiwan's MOFA for the DOLE statement.

"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 the interview.

"Deportation is the sovereign privilege of the host country. nothing we can do about their decisions on deportation," he added.

Banayo added that he was able to talk with the labor attaché in question who he said also apologized for his errors leading to the controversy.

(By Chiang Yi-ching and Joseph Yeh)

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