Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who had filed a case against Chinese President Xi Jinping with another former government official before the International Criminal Court, was denied entry Tuesday by immigration authorities at a Hong Kong airport.
Hong Kong authorities have remained silent why she was banned from the Chinese special administrative region, nearly two months to the day after Morales, 78, and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario who, in their 17-page complaint, said Xi and other officials should be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
In a statement, Del Rosario likened to bullying Hong Kong’s denial of entry to Morales, saying “one of the reasons we had filed our case in the ICC is to be able to push back against the bullying and harassment that we have been encountering from our Goliath of a neighbor.
“Today, with the holding of Morales by immigration authorities as a security risk presumably due to the ICC case that we had filed, we are experiencing more of the same.”
The complaint was over the Chinese officials activities in the West Philippine Sea, where the complainants said these activities deprived Filipino fishermen of food and livelihood.
Soon as news of the entry denial reached the Philippines, Malacañang said the government would assist Morales, regardless of her “political persuasion.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said he had requested Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto Abella to assist Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, and her family in their travel dilemma.
Morales, whose younger brother Lucas Jr. is the father-in-law of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, flew to Hong Kong with her children and grandchildren for a family vacation Tuesday morning, but she was barred from entering administrative region, official sources said.
Four unidentified companions were admitted, according to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, who is in Myanmar, who was quoted by officials as saying Morales was “refused entry” with airport officials saying only “this is an instruction.”
Morales and the others denied entry were expected back to Manila Tuesday night, although Deputy Consul General Germinia Aguilar-Usudan said they were allowed entry at around 3 p.m. but she decided to just take the flight back home.
Chinese Embassy officials in Manila earlier said Beijing would just ignore the case filed against Xi by Morales and Del Rosario.
In related developments:
• Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippines might not question the decision of the Hong Kong authorities for denying entry to Morales.
Guevarra stressed that entry or refusal to allow foreigners to any country was a sovereign prerogative of any state.
Nonetheless, Guevarra admitted that Morales might have been denied entry by HK immigration authorities due to her filing of a complaint against Xi.
“I can’t find any reason for this incident except former Ombudsman Morales’ filing of a complaint against China’s President Xi before the International Criminal Court,” Guevarra said, in a text message.
“Regardless of the reason, however, we may not question the action taken by Chinese immigration officials, as the entry of foreigners or the refusal thereof is the exclusive and sovereign prerogative of any country,” Guevarra added.
• In the Senate, Senator Francis Pangilinan stressed that Hong Kong authorities’ holding of Morales was a clear retaliation for her courageous act of bringing China to Court.
“Knowing the former Ombudsman, this will not deter her from pursuing the case,” he said.
As such, he said the act of deporting Morales would only further strengthen her resolve.
“It has also exposed China’s resolve to go after those who oppose and refuse to accept their illegal acts committed in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
• Morales’ lawyer Anne Marie Corominas said the former Ombudsman called her from Hong Kong to inform her of the situation.
“She has committed no crime. She’s only exercised her democratic rights as a Filipino citizen,” Corominas said. “How is a 78-year-old former anti-corruption Ombudswoman a security threat?”
Locsin, in his Twitter account, said: “Our Hong Kong consul asked if he could sponsor or guarantee her stay but Hong Kong refused.
“While awaiting her flight back [later joined by her companions], we sent our ATN [Assistance-to-Nationals] officer to keep her company and bring her food because she refused to eat the food offered by airport officials.”
Locsin added: “She’s in high spirits and in a wheelchair in a detention room at the airport.
“Later Hong Kong authorities okayed her entry, but she and her family had already decided to go back to Manila on the 6 p.m. PAL (Philippine Airlines) flight. That is all that’s known...” Locsin added.
Both Del Rosario and Morales said the “atrocious actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory” constituted crimes against humanity that could be prosecuted by the ICC.
Earlier on, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua expressed confidence the communication filed by two former government officials in the ICC would not prosper.
“We think it is a kind of political action viciously targeting the Chinese leadership, so we don’t think it is a proper action that is based on fact,” Zhao told Palace reporters last month.
READ: Two former Philippine officials sue China leader before ICC
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