Manila defends deportations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 February, 2011, 12:00am

The 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects caught in Manila were not deported home because they did not face criminal charges in Taiwan and could have been set free on their return, a senior Philippine government lawyer said yesterday.

The lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was explaining why the Philippine government chose to deport the 14 Taiwanese to the mainland.

'The Taiwanese were not deported to Taipei because they had no criminal cases pending there. Their cases were in the mainland,' he said.

He added that in one case, Taiwanese facing charges elsewhere were sent back to Taiwan and were set free on return.

Previously, Taiwanese fugitives were deported home following requests from Taipei.

In the latest case, a source close to the Chinese embassy in Manila said Beijing had tipped off the Philippine authorities on the whereabouts of the suspects.

When arrested, the suspects were unable to produce any travel documents.

Paquito Ochoa, the executive secretary to President Benigno Aquino, said in a radio interview on Monday that the suspects were arrested because of Interpol and the representation made by Beijing.

'When the immigration commissioner asked them for proof of citizenship, they could not produce any,' Ochoa said.

Along with the 14 Taiwanese, 10 mainlanders allegedly belonging to the same fraud syndicate were also deported to the mainland last week.

'The prudent action we took was to respect the 'one China' policy and let China and Taiwan resolve the matter among themselves,' Ochoa said.

He confirmed the deportation took place even after Taiwanese officials obtained a habeas corpus order from the Court of Appeals. Under the law, the order would have required the authorities to present the Taiwanese in court.

The government said in a statement through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office that 'in view of the existence of arrest warrants in China, the Department of Justice deported all 24 suspects to face prosecution in China'.

The deportation touched a raw nerve in Taipei but Manila authorities expressed optimism yesterday that the matter would be resolved.