Presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque

Malacanang on Sunday denied any involvement on the planned deportation of an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan for her  social media posts against President Rodrigo Duterte.

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace had no part in such plans, just as the administration has no part in the positive things that mllions of OFWs say online.

“Walang katunayan na tayo mismo ang humingi ng deportasyon na ‘yan, kasi hindi naman natin pinakekealaman ‘yung milyon-milyong OFWs at kanilang sinasabi dahil dito sa ating bayan ay mayroon naman tayong karapatan ng malayang pananalita,” he said.

However, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last week admitted that it was considering having the OFW repatriated because of her anti-Duterte posts.

“We are constrained to act for the deportation of a Filipina working as [a] caregiver in Taiwan for the crime of cyber libel for [the] willful posting of nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook,” the DOLE said.

The OFW is Elanel Egot Ordidor, who works as a caregiver in Yunlin County, Taiwan.  She is accused of “using several social media accounts” to “discredit and malign the President and destabilize the government.”

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taichung in a press statement from Labor Attaché Fidel Macauyag accused Ordidor of “breaking laws in both Taiwan and the Philippines”.  However, the MECO did not show any evidence for such claims. The MECO also said that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taichung “coordinated with her broker and employer on her deportation on the basis of the gravity of Ordidor’s offense under Philippine Law.”

There were reports that a labor attache’ visited Ordidor who was described as “cooperative.  She deleted the anti-Duterte videos and promised to publicly apologize to the President and the government.

“Alam niyo, sa iba’t ibang bansa, iba’t iba ‘yung karapatan ng mga mamamayan… Mayroong mga karapatan na pwedeng mag-derogate or pwedeng hindi ipatupad ‘pag merong international emergency,” Roque said

“Hindi ko lang alam kung ganyan ang nangyari sa Taiwan kaya nga pinapaalalahanan ko ang lahat sa panahong ngayon na hindi lang national emergency kundi international emergency kung iiral ang karapatan ng malayang pananalita ay mayroong hangganan,” he added.

Roque also promised the government would provide assistance to Ordidor if in case she gets deported by Taiwanese officials.

“Aasistihin natin kung anong kinakailangan ng manggagawa na madeport ng Taiwan bagamat ang desisyon ng Taiwan ay desisyon ng Taiwan,” he said.

“Hindi natin pinaghihimasukan ‘yan, pero kung ano ang pwede nating ibigay sa ordinaryong OFW na na-deport ibibigay din natin diyan sa kababayan nating ‘yan,” added Roque.

Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act into law last March which grants him additional powers to address the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

However, the law has a provision which penalizes “individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid of beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion; and those participating in cyber incidents that make us or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts.”

Violators of the provision face a penalty of two months jail time or a fine of P10,000 to P1 million or both, at the discretion of the court.

The first recorded case of a possible violator of the provision involved a public school teacher from General Santos City who was accused of spreading fake news when she called on local residents to head on to a local gym and raid the place of relief goods being distributed there at that time.  She also criticized the city mayor for allegedly leaving the city’s residents hungry.  She was arrested without a warrant.  Her son was arrested too for preventing law enforcers from arresting her mother.

Foremost Duterte critic, jailed Senator Leila de Lima said the anti-fake news provision is a form of suppression of freedom of speech, “a martial law tactic.”

Digital rights advocates, composed of 23 individuals and 18 organizations, condemned the provision in a statement calling it a threat to “our constitutional rights to free expression and access to information.”

“While the provision appears to address the long-standing concern of journalists and activists over false information typically circulated by paid trolling, it can also be used to curtail free speech, especially pieces of information that are critical of the government,” the statement read.  (Rommel F. Lopez)