, FEBRUARY 11, 2011 (BUSINESS WORLD ONLINE) THE PALACE is mulling sending a representative to Taiwan to iron out a diplomatic row over the deportation to mainland China of 14 Taiwanese suspected of being part of an Internet-based extortion syndicate, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III said yesterday.

"I might be sending an emissary to discuss with them particular issues and to explain why we decided the way we decided," Mr. Aquino told reporters in Malacañang.

He added that the emissary will be subject to the "restrictions imposed by our laws."

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs could not be immediately reached for comment.

This, as Taiwan ordered the recall of the head of its economic and cultural officer in Manila, the island-nation’s unofficial embassy, as the Taiwanese government imposed restrictions on the entry and screening of Filipino workers.

The Philippines does not maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, formally called Republic of China, as it recognizes the island as a territory of the People’s Republic of China.

However, it does maintain trade and cultural links through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, with Taiwan having a similar office (TECO) in Manila.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the deportation and said the Philippines does not need to apologize to Taiwan for the move, which is done in the interest of the country.

The government, he admitted is concerned for the welfare of some 80,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan, but this will not have an impact in its decision.

"We do not wish to be a haven of international crime syndicates. The evidence is in China, the crime was committed in China, so it was in our best interest, in our national interest, to deport them to China," Mr. Lacierda said in a separate press briefing.

The government, he added, has ordered MECO to make representations on the case.

For her part, Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima echoed Mr. Lacierda’s statements, saying the Taiwanese will face justice for their involvement in a syndicate.

"The prosecution of the suspects in China for the crime of estafa or similar offenses is the best option since the victims are all residents of that country," she said in a statement.

"Testimonies and presentation of evidence against the suspects will therefore be done more expeditiously."

She expressed optimism that the issue will be resolved amicably.

"Taiwan is an important partner not only in trade and investments but also in our war against international crime syndicates.

"I am optimistic that the Taiwanese leadership will see the wisdom behind our moves," Ms. de Lima said.

The National Bureau of Investigation arrested the 14 Taiwanese along with 10 Chinese nationals last year as they cracked down on a syndicate using the Internet to extort and siphon money out of victims primarily in China.

The suspects were subjects of outstanding arrest warrants and Interpol red notices for their involvement in the syndicate, the Department of Justice said. -- Nathaniel R. Melican

Palace says no withdrawal of RH support despite exclusion from priority bills 02/10/2011 By Aytch S. de la Cruz

President Aquino’s decision to drop the Responsible Parenthood (RP) bill from his list of priority legislative agenda for the first Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) he would convene is not an act of betrayal to the women’s groups, Malacañang implied yesterday.

Addressing the disappointed women’s groups, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte clarified that Aquino is not backtracking from his position on his five-pronged RP bill but that he has merely postponed its endorsement pending the conclusions of the State’s ongoing dialogs with Church leaders.

Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) has decried Aquino’s perceived preferential treatment to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) since it is the only sector being consulted on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill while the women’s groups were apparently being marginalized by his government.

DSWP claimed that it has requested an audience with the members of the Aquino administration to address its concerns over RH issues but Valte said she would have to confirm first if indeed a request was sent to the Office of the President.

“We’d like to clarify that the position of the President remains the same. He is staunchly behind responsible parenthood — that has not changed. However, we have explained in the past few days what actually happened. We have committed to the dialog with the CBCP and the last dialog is due

to take place sometime in the last week of February. You all know that the Ledac meeting has been set Feb. 28,” Valte told reporters, reiterating Malacañang’s previous explanation.

“Again, there is that misconception that the President was pushing the RH bill entirely in the campaign. We have always been very consistent that his stand was always for responsible parenthood — meaning that the choice is left to the parents after they have all the available information given to them and that they will make the choice according to their personal belief. And secondly, that we do not favor any method over the other,” Valte added.

A total of 17 draft proposals will be presented by Malacañang come the Ledac meeting and apart from the RP/RH bill, the Whistleblowers Act and the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill were also excluded from the list.

Aquino, in a chance interview the other day, explained that such measures were removed because they can no longer accommodate them owing to the other bills that they would have to prioritize out of the original set of 180 measures proposed by his Cabinet secretaries.

In the absence of the FoI bill, Aquino clarified: “We have been trying to be transparent to the utmost level possible. But, of course, there are times that when, especially in a raw state, we cannot discuss (information) lest we might have apprehensions raised that are not necessary... The shortcut answer is we’re still fine-tuning exactly how it will be, the details, of this Freedom of Information Bill.”

Insofar as the Whistleblowers Act is concerned, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said there is already a proposal to that effect that is currently pending at the House of Representatives and they will just push it along with their draft bill seeking the amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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