Thursday, February 10, 2011


“Extraordinary rendition and irregular rendition describe the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one nation to another.”

The phrase clearly sports a different meaning from just the legal term “rendition.”

The "extraordinary" kind, much in fashion due to US pressure following 9/11, was/is a method of circumventing other nations’ sensitivities to such problematic concepts as human rights and civil liberties.

It plays this way:
• If the citizens of Nation A frown on torture, but their government will look the other way, as
• Nation B (which may or may not condone torture but doesn’t want a propaganda fallout) kidnaps a suspect (usually under custody of Nation A law enforcers) and,
• Brings him to Nation C, which is known for its enthusiastic – and official -- use of the darker arts.

Whatever information comes out of this caper is shared by all three nations but often on the discretion of Nation B, which also unofficially directs the interrogation.

Ordinary rendition, on the other hand, simply means “a surrender or handing over of persons or property, particularly from one jurisdiction to another.

Wiki adds:
For criminal suspects, extradition is the most common type of rendition. Rendition can also be seen as the act of handing over, after the request for extradition has taken place.

Some countries, especially in the Scandinavian region, will refuse to extradite suspects to countries that a) practice torture or b) impose the death penalty. Simply put, they extend to alleged criminals the same respect they confer on their citizens.

In other countries, including the United States, a suspect sought for extradition can use the host nation’s justice system to contest that same order.

Until recently, I thought the Philippines, in theory, at least, followed the more civilized practices covering aliens who find themselves in trouble – although journalist friends have joked that the worst thing an alien can do is ask Immigration agents to work for his deportation.

Under the radar

Then came the case of 14 Taiwanese nationals nabbed “for an alleged scam to swindle mainlanders out of $20 million.” The cross-border fraud involved, among other things, the use of credit cards. They and their ten Chinese mainland cohorts were arrested in December. There doesn’t seem any question about their involvement in crime – a very lucrative enterprise gauging from their posh rented homes in exclusive villages here.

Very little was known of that affair until Taiwan, frustrated by having its representations brushed off by our officials, decided to recall its representative and announce economic sanctions targeting, unfortunately, an estimated 80,000 Filipino workers.

An story explains the reason for Taiwan’s anger:
“All of those arrested were deported to China, despite protests from Taipei, which said they Taiwanese should have been sent back to the self-governed island to face justice.”

When the story first broke, dzMM anchors Noli de Castro and Ted Failon were having a rare interview with Executive Secretary Jojo Ocho who mentioned the Philippines’ One-China Policy (we officially recognize Beijing but, like many countries, have quasi-diplomatic relations with Taipei). He also claimed that the Taiwanese did not have travel documents and were in the company of mainland Chinese, and so the Bureau of Immigration, which is under the Justice Department, decided to deport them to China.

Someone else repeated the One-China line though this was latter dropped – presumably with officials realizing the consternation in diplomatic circles; the argument morphed into something like this:

According to Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda: authorities in the Philippines will not allow the country to become a haven for international crime syndicates. "The crime was committed in China. It is in our best interest to deport them to China," he said.

Omission, commission

How deportation to Taiwan translates into allowing the Philippines to become a haven for crime syndicates isn’t clear to me. I’d normally say something was probably lost in translation, except that Lacierda was speaking in English and not Mandarin.

Besides, that’s not quite what Taiwan is saying. The Journal Online reports:

A statement issued by Taiwan said “the Philippine Government handed over 14 Taiwanese nationals, holding Taiwanese passports, to the People’s Republic of China early in the morning of February 2, 2011. During this act of deportation, the Philippine Government abandoned its own sovereign jurisdiction, violated Section 38 of the Philippine Immigration Act (CA 613) and instead based the deportation on Section 37 of the said act, ignored the due legal process, contradicted the nationality principle of jurisdiction in international law, and made a serious mistake.”

I've read the law and think you could play it both ways. Taiwan can say, he's our national. Some Philippine officials are claiming they came from China and, as Justice Secretary de Lima says, "China issued travel permits."

But what's strange is why the BI -- and the DOJ -- couldn't even be bothered to double-check the Taiwanese's claims.

“Taiwan’s representative to the Philippines said he was not given any opportunity to directly communicate with Philippine officials regarding the issue because they were not informed of the incident.”

“Furthermore, no prior notification of deportation was given to my office, and the deportation itself proceeded secretively at midnight, which shows no due respect to the Government of the Republic of China.”

Later, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), our unofficial embassy, said it had forwarded to the Taipe Economic and Cultural Office (Teco, Taiwan’s counterpart) the visas and copies of the 14 Taiwanese’s travel documents.

This was the Teco’s effort to prove the 14 were its nationals. But the Palace, which seems to be in the habit of eyeing all other Chinese entities as little provinces of Beijing (remember the Hongkong fiasco?), brushed off Taipe’s protests and, to add insult to injury, told it to take the problem to Big Brother.

Stealth, bad faith
On the early hours of February 2, the Taiwanese were brought with their Chinese cohorts straight to the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), in a convoy escorted by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agenmts. They did not pass the usual immigration channels. They were flown off on a chartered plane. And the poor Taiwanese officials were inside the airport trying for a last ditch attempt to get their citizens.

I can accept the insistence on original documents. What confounds was the BI’s haste to extradite the Taiwanese to Beijing. The Palace uses the word, “deport,” but when it is used in the context of Beijing demanding this action, it is tantamount to extradition -- minus the normal channels of redress suspects can use.

And because the "extradition" was demanded by a third country, that veers off to rendition territory -- especially because, as we now know, the Taiwanese had already gone to court for a solution. Now the Court of Appeals wants the BI and the DOJ to explain why it should not be cited for contempt in its attempt to preempt judicial action.

After all, the deportation occurred after the CA's Jan 31 issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, ordering the BI “to produce the living body” of petitioners Chen Ho-Yang, Li Yuan Hsing, Tai Yao-Pin, Chen Chia Hsiang, Lee Hsiang Pin and Lin Ying Chang. The petitioners had also filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the deportation order to China.

Guess when the BI was being asked to present the Taiwanese? February 2. This is what is worrisome, that the BI (and the DOJ) seemed to have gone out of their way to appease Beijing, even to the extent of ignoring and actually thwarting the appellate court. As our criminal lawyers say, it is premeditation that turns homicide into murder.

We can talk about technicalities and the legal fine print. But officials of this government that ostensibly walks the "tuwid na daan," seem to forget the basics:

Would WE want our nationals to be treated that way? Or are we so used to not caring that we’ve imposed our standards on other governments?

Secrecy. In the dead of night. Keeping supects’ governments blind. That sounds very much like extraordinary rendition.

The latest word, after blustering that there is nothing to apologize for, is a plan to send an emissary.

"Presently, MECO (Manila Econolic and Cultural Office) is handling the issue. I might be sending an emissary to discuss with them particular issues and to explain why we decided the way we decided," said President Benigno Aquino III in an interview Thursday.

Trying for governance by oido. Unfortunately, some people are tone deaf. And now cafe circles are buzzing with awful speculation: That some guys did not want Taipei to get hold of some embarrassing stuff and so hurried to send off these guys to the mainland. Oh jeez, and you thought stories like these ended with the last President's term. It may NOT be true. It's probably NOT true. But haste and secrecy ALWAYS raise presumption of irregularity.

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