Defend Taipei's Interests, Demand Respect from Manila
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 23, 2011
The Philippines recently deported a number of Republic of China citizens suspected of fraud to Mainland China. Taipei has retaliated by such measures as putting a freeze on Filipino laborers. Yesterday, President Ma met with Special Envoy Manuel Roxas. He sternly criticized the Philippines, using language unprecedented in its harshness. This move by the upper levels of government told the international community that Taipei was determined to defend the ROC's sovereignty and dignity.
President Ma has long been soft spoken and gentle in his demeanor. But when he met with Special Presidential Envoy Roxas from the Philippines, and pointed out the three mistakes Manila had made, his manner was stern. Fourteen ROC suspects were expelled from the Philippines. Philippine officials said they were extradited. They were expelled, but they were not repatriated to the Republic of China. This constitutes a violation of international law and international practice. The suspects held Republic of China passports. The Philippines claimed that they failed to cooperate, that they failed to submit their travel documents. The suspects' attorney obtained a court order from the Philippine court. But the Philippine government ignored its own laws, and illegally deported the suspects to Mainland China.
President Ma demanded that the Philippine government assume responsibility for is mistakes, and apologize. He said "My country will watch to see how your country deals with the incident. This will indicate how bilateral relations should develop." Seldom in Republic of China history has a president spoken so sternly to a foreign guest. Seldom has our government retaliated against a foreign government so harshly.
Roxas was dispatched to Taipei by President Benigno Aquino III. The purpose was to appease Taipei, by communicating directly, in order to turn things around. But Manila still refuses to admit that sending the suspects to the Mainland was a mistake, Manila reasons that the case was investigated by public security officials from the Mainland. The information came from public security officials on the Mainland. The victims were from the the Mainland. Beijing's desire that the Mainland judicial system investigate and prosecute the case struck Manila as reasonable. In truth, many mistakes were made in handling the case. Manila has also begun legal proceedings, congressional hearings, and congressional investigations. Similar cases have occurred before. ROC suspects were never prosecuted after being sent back to Taiwan. Manila feels these suspects will be dealt with more effectively if they are turned over to Beijing, which Manila considers better at fighting crime.
The Philippine Special Envoy held a ten hour long marathon session with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but still refused to apologize. This is why. Frankly, if Manila knew it had made a serious mistake, it should have apologized right then and there. Now it has sent Rojas. It is hoping that if he puts a nice spin on the matter, and allows Taipei to blow off some steam, the storm will quickly blow over. Sending a special envoy is of course a gesture of goodwill and a sign of respect. But mere lip service suggests that Manila has underestimated Taipei's anger.
During these diplomatic representations, Taipei must have a clear objective, namely, to safeguard the national interest. Manila's motives may have been well intentioned. But its actions treated Beijing as the guardian of Taipei's international affairs. This our government considers absolutely unacceptable. In order to teach Manila a lesson, and to prevent the international community from getting the wrong impression, Taipei is demanding that Manila apologize. The government is taking a tough stand. It is responding to a public backlash. It is also keeping an eye on future developments. It must make a grand gesture, as preventive medicine.
Manila may or may not be willing to eat crow and apologize. But Taipei must adopt stern measures, in the hope that similar cases will be handled the correct way. Manila must commit to international law and international practices. In the common fight against crime, it must fully respect Taipei's rights and interests. It must ensure that this incident remains an isolated one that is never repeated.
According to the "consensus reality" negotiated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang and Roxas, Philippine officials have agreed to take discipline the officials for dereliction of duty. This is something it should have done in the first place, in accorandance with the rule of law. The Philippines is willing to discuss the establishment of mutual legal assistance mechanisms for combatting transnational crime. Taipei and Manila should actively promote such measures. They must not allow the matter to drop. Manila hopes to sign an "economic partnership agreement" with Taipei. Taipei may not need such an agreement. Obviously there is no reason to "reward" Manila at this moment.
Diplomatic negotiations require clear objectives and bargaining chips. Taipei's objective is clear, It must play its chips wisely. Taipei has put a freeze on Filipino workers. Those impacted are admittedly the economically disadvantaged, and the businesses on Taiwan who employ them. Such a freeze may not directly impact the decision-making officials. But the Philippines is a nation that relies on the export of labor. Therefore the impact of such an action must not be underestimated. President Aquino III in particular, is under attack at home. He too hopes the storm will blow over, as soon as possible. Therefore, Taipei must continue its hard bargaining. It must be firm but rational. It must ensure that its national interests are not hurt again.
Internationally, Taipei is in a tough spot. But that is exactly why it must not lose hope. That is why it must demand respect. Others treat you the way you tell them to treat you. Taipei must take concrete action to ensure that the international community understands its aspirations.