Playing with fire

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THE recent “airport-to-airport” experience of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales at the hands of Hong Kong immigration authorities should teach past and present government officials — and the public at large — something about the promise and peril of international law.

Given our raucous democracy, Filipinos can pretty much do — and say — as they please. But when such action or speech involves or impacts another country, it can have consequences and ramifications outside our borders. Such is the case of Carpio-Morales.

The former Ombudsman was denied entry and detained by Hong Kong immigration authorities when she arrived in the China special administrative region of (SAR) last week for a family vacation.

“I was detained. When I arrived…I was interrogated and them brought to their detention room. They asked me to sign papers in Tagalog, and I said I wanted an English version. When I read it, it said‘detention,’” Carpio-Morales said. Hong Kong authorities did not give an explanation as to why Carpio Morales, who was told she would have to return to the Philippines on a 6 p.m. flight, was being banned.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted that the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong immediately “sent our ATN (assistance-to-nationals) officer to keep her company and bring her food because [Morales] refused to eat the food offered by airport officials.” Locsin also tweeted that “(o)ur Hong Kong consul asked if he could sponsor or guarantee her stay but Hong Kong refused. Carpio-Morales was told she could enter Hong Kong around 4 hours later but by then, she and her family had already decided to go back to Manila on the 6 p.m. PAL (Philippine Airlines) flight, Locsin added.

Expectedly, Carpio-Morales took a dig at the Duterte administration, saying she was disappointed at the lukewarm reaction to the incident from the Philippine government to the incident. “If that’s what they’re thinking, at least (the Duterte administration) should have said all right, while we’re trying our best to determine why they 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 convincing them, even just as a consolation. But they did nothing,” she said.

Carpio-Morales complained, “[The immigration officers] have to tell the persons denied entry why they were denied. They can’t just come up with a general reason. They have to be specific.”

Playing with fire

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