Hong Kong lifts ban vs ex-Ombudsman Carpio Morales

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2019 08:34 PM | Updated as of May 21 2019 10:32 PM

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales appears at the senate, October 9, 2017, before the Senate budget hearing for the Office of the Ombudsman. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was allowed to enter Hong Kong 3 hours after immigration officials barred her from setting foot in the Chinese territory, the Philippines' deputy consul general said Tuesday.

Still, Morales decided to "just go back to the Philippines" via a 6 p.m. Philippine Airlines flight, Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, Deputy Consul General of the Philippines in Hong Kong, told ANC's "Top Story."

"She's quite exhausted with the ordeal. She's quite disappointed because her grandchildren were with her," Aguilar-Usudan said of the 78-year-old former official.

 

Carpio Morales and her family arrived in Hong Kong at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday for a vacation, but she was disallowed by immigration officers from leaving the airport and entering the territory.

Immigration officials did not cite any reason for barring her from entering the special Chinese administrative region, Aguilar-Usudan said.

"We will be inquiring officially to the immigration office why she was not allowed immediate entry to Hong Kong," she said.

As of 5 p.m., Carpio Morales had already checked in her luggage and was just waiting for the boarding call for her family's flight back to Manila, Aguilar-Usudan said.

"She's okay. She's on her way to a restaurant to take some refreshments before taking the flight back to the Philippines," she said.

Morales' plane landed in Manila at around 9:20 p.m. She was received by former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert Del Rosario and her lawyer, Anne Marie Corominas.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a series of tweets, said the former Ombudsman was "in high spirits" while she was held in a detention room at the airport.

Locsin added that Carpio Morales was accompanied by an assistance to nationals (ATN) officer as she waited for her flight back to Manila.

"We sent our ATN officer to keep her company and bring her food because she refused to eat the food offered by airport officials. (CLASS! I can see her sneer.)," Locsin said.

"She's in high spirits and in a wheelchair in a detention room at the airport. Later HK authorities okayed her entry but she and her family had already decided to go back to Manila on the 6 pm PAL flight."

Locsin added: "(Carpio Morales) was refused entry with airport officials saying only 'this is an instruction.' "

In March, Carpio Morales, also a former Supreme Court magistrate, and Del Rosario filed a communication against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court and sought a probe into Beijing's "systematic plan to control the South China Sea."

Corominas, who represented Carpio Morales on her filing of the ICC criminal case vs Xi, earlier slammed Hong Kong's Immigration decision to consider the former Ombudsman as a "security threat."

"How is a 78-year old former anti-corruption Ombudswoman a security threat in HK-China?" Corominas said in a statement.

Del Rosario said Carpio Morales' airport incident was similar to how China has been bullying the Philippines in areas where the 2 countries have overlapping claims.

"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," he said.

"Today, with the holding of Former Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales by immigration authorities in Hong Kong as a security risk presumably due to the ICC case that we had filed, we are experiencing more of the same," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Morales may have been barred from entering Hong Kong because of the ICC case.

In a tweet, Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the incident served as a "wake up call."

"For me, providing assistance & clarifying all denials of entry imposed by any State on any Filipino is part of the DFA’s job of protecting/defending our nationals especially when they are abroad," Escudero said.

"While immigration policies are the sole prerogative of every sovereign nation, nothing prevents the DFA from providing any & all assistance to its citizens who are abroad & inquiring or getting a clarification as to what these immigration policies are as applied to its citizens."

--With a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News