Drop probe, threats of deportation against Taiwan OFW over peaceful criticism
Responding to news that a Filipina worker in Taiwan is under investigation for cyber-libel and risks being deported after criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte, Amnesty International Philippines Section Director Butch Olano said:
“The targeting of a Filipina worker in Taiwan with threats of deportation for peacefully expressing her opinion is another alarming move by the Duterte government to crack down on dissent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is regrettable that our overseas Filipino workers, once hailed by the government as modern-day heroes, may now face threats of deportation and criminal proceedings for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“Any limitation on the right to freedom of expression in light of the pandemic must be provided clearly in law, and must be necessary and proportionate for the protection of public health or other legitimate purpose under international human rights law. Neither is the case in the situation of the OFW now being singled out for her critical opinion.
“The Philippine government must drop its investigation of the OFW solely for her peaceful expression of dissent, and abolish its plan to initiate deportation proceedings against her. The government must also end its repressive campaign against freedom of expression, including through its use of the vaguely worded and overbroad provision against ‘creating, perpetuating or spreading false information’ under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
“The government should instead step up efforts to disseminate reliable, accessible, evidence-based and trustworthy information, including on the measures that are being taken to protect public health and address the pandemic, which is crucial to counter false and misleading information.
“The bravery of Filipinos who continue to speak up against injustice during this difficult time is commendable. Despite the authorities’ relentless and unjustified measures to mute dissent, many continue to peacefully challenge these restrictions, even at the risk of their own lives and liberties.”
On 25 April 2020, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it is seeking the deportation of Elanel Ordidor, a Filipina overseas worker, for cyber libel after she allegedly posted “nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook intended to cause hatred amidst the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic”. On 28 April 2020, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the National Bureau of Investigation’s Cybercrime Division has launched an investigation against Ordidor when asked if the government will file cyber libel charges against her.
In March 2020, President Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law, which grants him special powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It also punishes several acts, including “creating, perpetuating or spreading false information”, with up to two months in prison, up to P1 million in fines, or both.