All she wanted was to bring her fatherless grandkids to Disneyland

Lian Buan

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All she wanted was to bring her fatherless grandkids to Disneyland
'I missed the sight of them...jumping with excitement, yan ang pinakanasaktan ako na na-miss ko,' says former ombudsman Conchita Morales after she was denied entry to Hong Kong


Still less than a year into her retirement from 47 years of public service, former Philippine ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had promised her grandchildren a trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong.

But that was spoiled after Hong Kong Immigration authorities held her at the airport for still unclear reasons, and sent her back to the Philippines on the same day on Tuesday, May 21.

“More of frustration (rather than humiliation) because precisely we went to Hong Kong because I promised my grandchildren, who are the children of my son who passed away almost 4 years ago. I promised them we would go to Hong Kong and we would go to Disneyland and I missed the sight of them, with the gleam in their eyes, jumping with excitement, ‘Yan ang pinakanasaktan ako, na na-miss ko (That hurt me most and I missed that),” Morales told reporters upon her arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) late Tuesday evening.

Morales, 78 years old, was with her husband, son and daughter-in-law, and grandchildren on the trip.

After 4 hours of detention, airport officials said she could enter Hong Kong but Morales and family had already decided to take the flight home, citing uneasiness because of the entire ordeal. Morales was held by herself, with no contact with family during the 4-hour detention period.

Morales’ family waited for her at the Hong Kong airport up until they all took the flight home.

“I was disappointed not because I was not allowed entry but because I was deprived of the opportunity to see my grandchildren enjoy their vacation in Hong Kong,” Morales said.

She added: “Sa eroplano na lang ang tuwa tuwa nila, they were infectious, ngayon hindi ko pa sila nakita, my other grandson said we came to Hong Kong just to buy Transformer (toys).”

(They were already so excited in the airplane, they were infectious, I haven’t seen them yet now, my other grandson said we came to Hong Kong just to buy Transformer [toys].)

Morales said that upon deplaning 11 am on Tuesday, she was immediately “brought to a room.”

She said officials interrogated her and was made to sign forms that indicated she was already in detention. She said authorities did not allow her to take her suitcase, nor use her phone.

Morales said she was offered food but she did not take them for fear of her safety.

“I said just give me a bottle of water, kasi tinuturo nila yung dispenser, naku lalasunin pa ako dun, so I said I want bottled water, dumating ang bottled water hindi ko pinansin, I did not take my maintenance for lunch time because I did not want to drink that water, sabi ko nga dapat sasabihin ko Evian water lang ang iniinom ko, pag libre,” Morales said in jest.

(I said just give me a bottle of water. They were pointing me to the dispenser but I thought maybe they would poison me. So I said I want bottled water. When they gave me bottled water, I also did not touch it. I did not take my maintenance medicine for lunch because I did not want to drink that water, I was supposed to tell them, I only drink Evian water if it’s free.) 

Morales also said she had to tell Immigration authorities she was claustrophobic even though she wasn’t.

“They asked me to go to a room for privacy daw, sabi ko may claustrophobia ako syempre inimbento ko mamaya kung ano pa gagawin nila,” Morales said.

(They asked me to go to a room supposedly for privacy, but I said I have claustrophobia, but of course I just invented that because who knows what they could do.)

Morales has slammed China for what she said is a clear case of bullying.

Morales and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario had filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) last March, over China’s maritime violations in the West Philippine Sea.

Morales said she believed the ICC complaint was the reason behind the ordeal.

Morales also claimed she was being surveilled by China, and said her cellphones are hacked.

Asked if she plans any legal action with regards to her ordeal, Morales said: “That is something I should reflect on, I’m not going to say anything whether I’m going to file any action nor that I’m not going to file any action.”

One thing Morales is sure about is that they will step up their actions on the ICC complaint against Xi.

“It keeps us more resolved to pursue the case, to bring the level of the case to crescendo. We will fight for the examination of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor,” she said.

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.