Translated by Yuan-ling Liang

In February 2011, the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese arrested under suspicion of scam to China, which angered people in Taiwan. Wu Den-yih, former premier of Taiwan, said such an action not only fails to respect Taiwan, but also violates international practices. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense announced a protesting statement based on international law and jurisdiction while the Straits Exchange Foundation protested according to cross-strait negotiation mechanism.

Taiwan also recalled its representative in the Philippines. Furthermore, the special treatment that allows Philippine residents to enter Taiwan with UK or US visas was canceled, and restrictions were tightened on examination of immigrants to Taiwan.

However, five years later today, the reason behind this incident can be reviewed more objectively. Why did the Philippine government make such a decision? From the Philippines’ aspect, it seems more complicated than the opinions we used to hold. The reason may neither be just the threat posed by China nor the rumor saying that the Philippines is helping the US sell Taiwan to China.

Aileen Baviera, a professor at the Asian Institute of Management, analyzed that both the disputed case in 2011 and the interaction between China and the Philippines should be measured under another international judicial case. In the case, three drug dealers were sentenced to death after being arrested in China in March 2011. This was the first case ever for the Chinese government to execute Filipino citizens.

Since most of the citizens, labor movement groups, scholars and some of the politicians in the Philippines consider the prevalence of working abroad to be the government’s responsibility, cases relevant to migrant workers have always captured the public’s attention. As a consequence, the government usually has to act valiantly when dealing with such issues to respond to interior public opinions.

Currently, 10% of the Filipino population works abroad as secondary labors in places including the Middle East, Northern East Asia and North America. This also contributes to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) foreign policy to protect their workers, while some regard this as a drawback. The decision to withdraw Filipino troop from Iraq, made by former President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in July 2004, is considered a case influenced by the Philippines’ public opinion.

In the 2004 case, armed rebels in Iraq kidnapped a Filipino driver to force the Philippines to withdraw their troops in Iraq. Meanwhile, public opinions in the Philippines asked then President Arroyo to compromise and save the driver’s life. Faced with migrant worker issues, the Philippines can even abandoned its relationship with the US, which is quite different from the attitude the Taiwanese government holds. As for the recent Taiwanese drug dealers’ case in Indonesia, attention in Taiwan is rarely aroused and the government also reacts calmly.

After taking office in 2010, Cojuangco Aquino III soon needed to deal with a thorny problem. He had to save three Filipinos from execution after the Chinese government arrested them for trafficking drugs in China. The act of deporting Taiwanese suspects was just one of the political moves. Evident moves back then included:

1. In December 2010, the Philippine government was absent in Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiao-bo’s Nobel Prize Ceremony. The act was heavily criticized by human rights organizations in the Philippines.

2. In February 2010, the Philippine government risked destroying their relationship with Taiwan for deporting 14 Taiwanese suspects to China. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled their representative and tightened the procedure for migrant workers from the Philippines. President Ma Ying-jeou also coldly treated special representative Mar Roxas, whom the Philippine government sent to Taiwan.

3. In February 2011, Vice President Binay went to China on behalf of the government to plead China to postpone the execution of the criminals. Binay was even praised after China granted the country temporary permission.

In Taiwan’s general belief, the South China Sea dispute has caused many conflicts between the Philippines and China. In July 2011, Internet polls even showed that about 70% of the Filipinos think they should resist China’s products to protest for its invasion of Philippines’ sovereignty.What needs clarifying is that the “death penalty case” is not viewed as a “threat from China” in the nation. Contrarily, criticism over the government’s weak protection to migrant workers is stronger. Under such background, the government should strive to protect their citizens to comfort the angry public while trying to respect the Chinese law and stay cooperative on cross-border crimes.

The inexperienced Aquino government unwisely related the juristic case with Liu Xiao-bo’s Nobel Prize Ceremony and the deportation of Taiwanese suspects to China. Their actions were intended to maintain the relationship with China under tension of the South China Sea dispute; however, they failed to do so and ruined bilateral relations with Taiwan temporarily. Perhaps China may feel over-treated by the Philippines during this period and reactions among Taiwanese citizens magnify our lack of knowledge of Philippine’s foreign policies.

Related News: Three Taiwanese Drug Traffickers Sentenced to Death in Indonesia

Edited by Olivia Yang