In this photo taken on February 1, 2020, Lourdes De Juan and her children visit the grave of her late husband, an alleged victim of an extrajudicial killing, at a public cemetery in Novaliches, suburban Manila. - The dozen children stared shyly at the audience but grew bolder when they began to sing, pouring their grief into music for the fathers they lost to the Philippines' drug war. They perform as a choir that is both an act of protest against the internationally condemned campaign, and a key element in their community's effort to keep these children from being gunned down too. (Photo by JAM STA ROSA / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY PHILIPPINES-CRIME-RIGHTS-CHILDREN,FOCUS BY JOSHUA MELVIN AND CECIL MORELLA (Photo by JAM STA ROSA/AFP via Getty Images)
Filipino caregiver Elanel Egot Ordidor, threatened to be deported by Philippine labor department, had reached an agreement with her employer, guaranteeing her job in Taiwan until 2022 without having to promise to stop expressing her opinion on Philippine political issues.
Efforts by civil organizations in the Philippines and Taiwan, along with Taiwan's government's precise statement, had lead to this result.
Human right situation in the Philippines
In the statement released on April 27, Taiwan's MOFA not only made clear its position to defend sovereignty and freedom of expression, but also indicated that no any person or institution has the right to put pressure on Ms. Ordidor, her employer and broker. MOFA's spokesperson also said that it's improper to deport Ms. Ordidor at anyone's discretion without an accord between Taiwan and Philippine government.
This remark showed that MOFA was concerned about the risk that Ms. Ordidor could be repatriated through dismissal and also implied that Taiwan's government wouldn't accept this kind of trick.
In the Philippines, labor department seemed to hold different position toward this issue with diplomatic department, which had implied that the criticism should be regarded as freedom of expression. Philippine labor secretary Silvestre Bello remarked on April 30 that this case might not be closed and POLO's Labor Attaché was still investigating the case.
For civil organizations in the Philippines, the main concern is whether Duterte regime takes "pandemic containment" as an excuse to oppress freedom and human right.
On March 23, Philippine congress had passed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, granting the president additional power to implement temporary emergency measures to handle COVID-19 outbreak.
Migrante International chairman Joanna Concepcion warned that Ms. Ordidor's case could be "a dangerous sign of what Martial Law could look like if its effects were extended to Filipinos overseas.”
To put it another way, overseas Filipinos' criticism on the Internet, which cannot be censored by Philippine government, could be a threat for president Duterte to tighten social control.
Recent incidents evoked memories of the massive purge in the name of drug war soon after president Duterte was in power. He also listed many activists as terrorists by the Human Security Act.
In addition, activists in the Philippines always live under the threat of lynching and assassination. April 30, Jory Porquia, an activist working in Iloilo City, was shot dead in his home. Many people believed it was another murder against dissidents.
What about Taiwan?
"All I am worrying is the safety of my family in the Philippines. I pray to god every day, begging him to protect them." After Ms. Ordidor became a nationally renowned figure by this incident, she was afraid of revenge on her family from the government or its supporters.
But she said she didn't worry about her safety in Taiwan. "I didn't break Taiwan's law. What I did is only expression of personal opinion. I believe Taiwan's government will continue to support me."
She had come to an agreement with her employer to keep working until the contract expire in 2022.
Taiwan's government had indeed played an effective role to protect Ms. Ordidor this time. But it had also deported many foreign activists before on the ground of "not conforming to purpose of visit". Recent example is the deportation of several Korean workers who were forcibly laid off by Hydis corporation in 2015, a subsidiary of a major Taiwanese conglomerate Yong Feng Yu group.
On the other hand, Taiwan's congress had failed to pass refugee law for a long time, which means that it could be hard to seek political asylum in Taiwan.
During current COVID-19 pandemic, many states has taken measures to tighten social control, and Taiwan is no exception. Yi Hsiang Shih, general secretary of Taiwan Association for Human Rights, indicated that many measures taken by Taiwan's government are lack of due process of law, such as digital tracking, restriction on traveling abroad to designated occupation and announcing names of people breaking quarantine regulation.
Whether these measures will be taken to fulfill other purpose beyond pandemic containment should be concerned. "Taiwan's government had done a good job in Ms. Ordidor's case" Mr. Shih said, "But it's still too early to determine whether Taiwan's government improved human right protection in recent period.