MALACAÑANG raised the possibility that former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario may have flown to Hong Kong to test whether he would also be barred from entering China's special administrative region just like former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday, June 21, 2019, asked whether it was deliberate on the part of Del Rosario.
"If I were Del Rosario, I would have not gone to Hong Kong because I would be -- I'm sure, I would have anticipated, that I would be going to [suffer] the same ordeal like the former Ombudsman did. Now why did he go there? That's my question to him," Panelo said in a television interview.
"Is it deliberate on his part so that he will have the same situation where he can use it as a forum for his advocacy?" he added.
The Associated Press reported that Del Rosario went to Hong Kong for a business conference, but was blocked by iImmigration officers and was later held in a small airport immigration lounge.
Carpio-Morales first suffered the same plight when she traveled to Hong Kong on May 21 for a vacation with her family.
On March 13, Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales represented the Filipino fishermen in filing a communication against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the communication lodged before the ICC, the two former government officials "accused Xi and other Chinese officials of committing crimes against humanity for implementing Beijing's "systematic plan to control the South China Sea."
Panelo said the Philippine government could not question Hong Kong's power to deny entry to any foreign tourists like Del Rosario.
"We cannot question the authority, the right of a country to stop or to investigate any guest or visitor wanting to enter that particular country. That's their exclusive domain," he said.
"Now, whether or not a person is a security risk to them is for them to determine not us or not the country where that person or guest do belong," the Palace official added.
Panelo, nevertheless, said the Duterte government would provide "protection and assistance" to Del Rosario, since the former Foreign Affairs chief "remains a Filipino citizen."
"Certainly, any country has the authority and the right to bar entry to any foreign national to its territory. Be that as it may, the Philippine Government, through our consular office in Hong Kong, continues to provide assistance to Mr. Del Rosario, like all other Filipinos who may find themselves in distress abroad," he said in a statement.
"Notwithstanding his penchant to capitalize and politicize issues related to PRRD’s foreign policy towards China, he remains a Filipino citizen entitled to protection and assistance from the Philippine Government," the Palace official added. (SunStar Philippines)