Ex-Ombudsman Morales slams China for ‘bullying’ after Hong Kong deportation

Lian Buan

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Ex-Ombudsman Morales slams China for ‘bullying’ after Hong Kong deportation
(UPDATED) Former Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales claims she is being surveilled and says 'my cellphones are hacked'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Tuesday, May 21, slammed China for “bullying” after Hong Kong immigration barred her from entering the country in what was supposed to be a Disneyland trip for her grandchildren.

“Yes that was bullying. How do you call it if that’s not bullying? I think someone came up with the theory that shock and awe daw, hindi naman ako nasho-shock, hindi naman ako naa-awe, nabu-buwisit lang (I don’t get shocked, I don’t get awed, but I am extremely agitated),” Morales told reporters upon her arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) past 10 pm Tuesday.

Shock and awe refers to a supposed strategy that China uses against its foes.

Morales, her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren arrived at the Hong Kong airport at 11 am Tuesday, but they all returned on a 6 pm flight back to Manila. Morales was detained for 4 hours at the airport for an “immigration reason.”

Morales’ lawyer Annemarie Corominas earlier told media Morales was deemed a security threat. 

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 believes the ICC complaint is the reason behind the ordeal.

“It occurred to me to consider that, in fact before I went to Hong Kong, I was saying to some people I’m leaving for Hong Kong, and maybe they would not allow me to enter because of that, and then some people said that might not happen because they wouldn’t want to show you that they are actually tailing you, but it happened,” Morales said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Morales said she believes she is being surveilled. “My cellphones are hacked, I am already paranoid,” the former Ombudsman, and also a retired Supreme Court justice, said.

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

Morales said an airport official eventually told her she would be allowed to enter Hong Kong, but the family opted to take the scheduled return flight. “After what happened na ganunin nila ako (and what they did to me)?

Morales said she kept asking for a legal basis to bar her entry, and that she kept requesting copies of immigration provisions that were being cited, but it remained unclear to her the specific ground for her deportation.

Human rights lawyers have called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand answers from Hong Kong on their basis to bar entry to Morales. Filipinos enjoy visa-free entry to Hong Kong.

In a statement on Monday, May 27, the University of the Philippines Law Alumni Association (UPLAA) said Morales’ detention “is a cause for grave alarm for our nation and every Filipino.”

“The detention of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales bares another act of strong-arming by China in its slow and creeping invasion of Philippine sovereign maritime zones recognized by an international tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said the UPLAA.

“The UP Law Alumni Association sounds a clarion call for vigilance and patriotism to support former Ombudsman Carpio Morales and encourage our government to be more proactive in defending the rights of our sovereign nation and every Filipino from unwarranted intrusions,” said the group. 

But the Philippine government, through Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, said it cannot do anything as Hong Kong is a sovereign country that has the right to refuse entry to their territories.

Is she disappointed with the response? Morales said: “That’s their opinion. You read between the lines, you are at liberty to interpret that.”

Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has adopted a friendlier stance toward China, downplaying a decades-long sea dispute in exchange for loans and grants from the Chinese. Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

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