Ex-Ombudsman Morales returns to PH after Hong Kong airport entry denial

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 21) — Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has returned to the Philippines after she was denied entry at the Hong Kong airport.

Morales arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport past 9 p.m. Tuesday, hours after she, her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren flew to Hong Kong around lunch time. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, security officers prevented her from entering for "immigration reasons" and she was separated from her kin.

She admitted she did not know that she was already being detained until she was shuffled into a room, and was asked to sign papers in relation to her detention.

"I was detained. Pagdating ko, I was brought to a room na hindi naman 'yun dapat 'yung sa arriving visitors. I was interrogated and then pagkatapos dinala ako sa detention room nila," she said. "Meron silang pinapapirmahan na Tagalog ... ang sabi ko I want an English version. I read it, nakalagay detention na."

[Translation: When I arrived, I was brought into a room that was not meant for arriving visitors. I was interrogated and then after I was brought to their detention room. They asked me to sign papers in Tagalog, and I said I want an English version. When I read it, it said there 'detention'.]

Officials told her she would have to return to the Philippines on a 6 p.m. flight.

She refused to sign these documents which were supposedly full of blanks and had a lot of missing details. She also refused to eat food and drink water that was offered to her.

"Nako baka lasunin pa nila ako doon [Oh no, they might even poison me there]," he said.

The former anti-corruption official then said a "commander of the airport" told her she was now allowed entry to Hong Kong, but she refused to do so and opted to return home with her family.

Morales then said she believes her detention was linked to the complaint she and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed to with the International Criminal Court against Chinese President Xi Jinping may have been a factor for her detention. The complaint was over “crimes against humanity” due to Beijing’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

She then expected Beijing's move against her was "expected" but "far-fetched."

"That was bullying. How would you call it if that's not bullying? I think someone came up with the theory na 'shock and awe' daw. Hindi naman ako nasa-shock, di naman ako na-o-awe. Nabi-bwisit lang [I wasn't shocked, I wasn't awed, I was just annoyed]," she said.

Morales expressed dismay over her detention, as all she wanted to see was her grandchildren having fun in their trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.

"I was deprived of the opportunity to see my grandchildren enjoy their vacation in Hong Kong," she said.

But she clarified she has no regrets over filing the communication against Xi.

"That gives us more resolve to pursue the case. That brings the level of the case to crescendo. We will fight for the examination by the Office of the Prosecutor of the communication that the Ambassador and I filed," she said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had earlier said the action of Chinese immigration officials must not be questioned "as the entry of foreigners or the refusal thereof is the exclusive and sovereign prerogative of any country."

In response to this, the ex-ombudsman said, "You read between the lines. You are at liberty to interpret that."

A security threat?

In an earlier interview with CNN Philippines, Morales' legal counsel Atty. Anne Marie Corominas said the ex-ombudsman was detained as she was a "security threat."

"Is President Xi afraid of her?" Corominas said. "The only thing she did is to exercise her right as a Filipino citizen and file a communication before the International Criminal Court against President Xi."

Del Rosario, who met with Morales at the airport upon her arrival, said in an earlier statement the Philippines is "experiencing more of the same" bullying with Beijing's move against Morales.

"One of the reasons who had filed our case in the ICC is to be able to push back against the bullying and harassment that we have been encountering from our goliath of a neighbor," Del Rosario said. "Today, with the holding of (Morales) by immigration authorities in Hong Kong as security risk presumably due to the ICC case that we had filed, we are experiencing more of the same."

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said the Philippine government through Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella was to give assistance to the former Ombudsman during her detention.

Morales is the sister of a presidential-in-law. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, is married to Atty. Manases Carpio, son of the former Ombudsman's brother.