The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has raised the alarm over a labor attaché’s move seeking deportation of a Filipino worker in Taiwan over critical statements against the Duterte administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CHR said labor officials abroad are mandated to aid, not prosecute, Filipino citizens.
CHR spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline de Guia noted that Philippine Overseas Labor Offices are mandated to promote and protect the general welfare of OFWs by probing violations of work contracts while in host countries, providing temporary shelters when necessary, ensuring medical assistance, and assisting in repatriation of workers, especially in times of crises.
“It is [then] cause of concern when a Labor Attaché works towards the deportation of Filipina caregiver, later named Elanel Egot Ordidor employed in Yunlin County, Taiwan, over what appears to be an exercise of her right to express concerns on the plight of fellow Filipinos in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” De Guia said.
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan (POLO) has reportedly coordinated with her broker and employer on her possible deportation.
“We continue to remind the government that public service requires a higher tolerance for opinions and criticisms, especially that a democracy works best when there are healthy discourses on governance; thereby, allowing greater accountability from our public officials,” De Guia added.
The CHR then cited Article 3, Section 4 of Philippine Constitution which states “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Taiwan, like the Philippines, is run under a democratic form of government.
“While government continues to cite that certain rights can be restricted in the context of public emergencies, we caution against the application of these restrictions beyond the allowable parameters of human rights law—that they should always be legal, necessary, and proportionate,” De Guia said.
“Any overreach may result in human rights violations,” De Guia added.
In closing, the CHR reminded government officials that laws are there to protect the vulnerable, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the face of a pandemic, we hope that the government, including its representatives here and abroad, can direct greater efforts in preserving the rights and dignity of Filipinos by finding ways to curb the transmission of the virus and cushion its impacts, especially to vulnerable sectors,” she pointed out.
“Laws, including the declaration of a national health emergency, are ultimately meant to protect rights. Holding public office grants powers, but also entails great responsibilities—to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights,” she added. —KG, GMA News