April 26, 2020
Hon Silvestre H. Bello III
Department if Labor and Employment
Dear Sec. Bello,
It has come to our knowledge that our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taiwan is initiating a deportation proceedings against an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), Elanel Egot Ordidor, a caregiver employed in Yunlin County, Taiwan.
We went to view two of her postings and we found them neither defamatory or libelous. Personal hurt or embarrassment, even if real, is not automatically equivalent to libel or defamation.
Freedom of speech and of the press as well as of peaceful assembly are preferred rights among other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and are nearly absolute against public officials (N.Y. TIMES vs Sullivan).
The Nagkaisa holds that Ms. Ordidor statements involved the interest of society and the maintenance of good government. These demand freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think in full discussion of public affairs.
Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public official is said to be a scalpel in the case of free speech. Our public officials may suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation -- but we submit "the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience", to borrow the words of Justice Malcom (U.S. vs Bustos).
Thus, a person in public office "must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts."
We are not aware of other postings and how Ms. Ordidor allegedly defamed or libeled the President, but surely something is amiss when the POLO starts taking arbitary action to have an OFW arrested in foreign land and deported without due process. As we understand, libel cannot be filed by any person aside from the one defamed according to the last paragraph of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code. Is there a case filed by President Duterte, the one whom the defamations were allegedly directed at, against Ms. Ordidor? Is there any case filed at all? Is cyberlibel being added as an additional ground for deportation of an OFW?
Is the POLO now authorized to cause arrest in foreign land and effect deportation? What provision of law is this authority anchored.
These are just few of the questions hounding this particular case and we suspect there is irregularity in this action.
In this view, may we request your good office to conduct an administrative investigation and clarify this matter?
If this reported initiative of deportation is true, this is highly deplorable and the responsible officer must be disciplined and held accountable. The alleged "nasty and malevolent" postings against President Duterte will not justify this illegal act of deportation initiated by our POLO - which is mandated to give ample protection to, and not be instrument of harrassment against, OFWs under its jurisdiction (see Art 21 of Labor Code).
Further, more importantly, we respectfully urge your a dangerous precedent that would put our OFW's inherent and constitutional right to free speech and to travel in jeopardy.
We look forward to your favorable action. Thank you and warm regards.