MANILA - The Philippine government has not requested the deportation of an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan for alleged libelous comments against President Rodrigo Duterte, the country's representative in Taipei has said.
In an interview with Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) Monday, Angelito Banayo, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, said he has not yet received any instructions regarding the issue.
Banayo also pointed out that the order for deportation is a sovereign right of the Taiwanese government.
"So the question of deportation is something that only the Taiwanese government can decide upon," he said.
Banayo was responding to the statement released by the Department of Labor and Employment on Saturday, saying it sought the deportation of a Filipina worker in Taiwan after the woman posted "nasty and malevolent materials intended to cause hatred" against Duterte on social media.
Fidel Macauyag, labor attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taichung City, identified the migrant worker as a caregiver employed in Yunlin county.
Macauyag alleged that the woman was using multiple social media accounts and participated in a group "organized to discredit and malign the President and destabilize the government."
Banayo also told CNA that the DOLE statement was a "unilateral decision" made by Macauyag, who did not inform MECO of the issue prior to releasing the statement.
"We did not advise him nor did he ask MECO... for permission to do so," he said.
He also said he wouldn't recommend legal action against the worker, citing freedom of information.
"In the previous government in the Philippines, I was charged with six counts of libel, so it is far from the realm of possibility for me to want to curtail freedom of speech or freedom of information in any matter whatsoever," Banayo said.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Philippine authorities are investigating the issue, noting that the country has an existing law against cyber libel and cybercrime.
"Well, unang-una siya po ay nasa Taiwan pa. Hindi pa siya nade-deport. Pangalawa po, mayroon po tayong batas na umiiral, iyong cyber libel at saka cyber-crime law at saka mayroon din po tayong Bayanihan Act. So pinag-aaralan po iyan ng ating mga awtoridad, parehong Department of Justice at saka iyong local labor attaché po doon po sa Taiwan na isang dating fiscal kaya alam po niya kung ano ang ating criminal law," Roque said.
(Well, the worker is still in Taiwan. She has not yet been deported. Second, we have an existing law against cyber libel and cybercrime, and we also have the Bayanihan Act. So our authorities are studying the issue, both the Department of Justice and the local labor attaché in Taiwan, who was a former fiscal so he knows our criminal law.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the issue.
According to Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez of the DFA Office of Strategic Communication and Research, MECO is not under the supervision of DFA.
“MECO is under the supervision of the Office of the President not DFA. Mr. Banayo is an experienced official who is authorized to speak for his office,” Meñez said.
- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News