MANILA (6th UPDATE) - Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has been held by immigration authorities at an airport in Hong Kong, in a possible retaliation by Beijing against the former Filipino official.
Carpio Morales flew to Hong Kong with her children and grandchildren for a family vacation, but was barred from entering the special administrative region of China, the former Ombudsman told ABS-CBN News.
Hong Kong authorities did not explain why she was banned from the Chinese special administrative region.
Carpio Morales said she is awaiting deportation, scheduled Tuesday night, at the airport's immigration facility.
The family has decided not to push through with the vacation and will fly back to Manila with her, she said.
The Philippine consulate has communicated with Hong Kong officials but the former Supreme Court magistrate was still barred from entering the territory under China.
Carpio Morales and former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert Del Rosario hauled Chinese President Xi Jinping to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.
The former Philippine officials sought an investigation into Beijing's "systematic plan to control the South China Sea."
Lawyer Anne Marie Corominas, who represented Carpio Morales on her filing of the ICC criminal case vs Xi, said the Hong Kong's Immigration considered the former Ombudsman as a "security threat."
"How is a 78-year old former anti-corruption Ombudswoman a security threat in HK-China?"said Corominas.
The construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters "adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations," they said in their communication to the international tribunal.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has been notified of the incident and would "give assistance to former Ombudsman Morales and her family," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told Palace reporters.
"I already called up Undersecretary Abella as Secretary Locsin is in Myanmar, and requested him to give assistance to former Ombudsman Morales and her family. He already replied and said they are already on it," Panelo said.
In a statement, Del Rosario likened to bullying Hong Kong's denial of entry to Morales.
"One of the reasons we had filed our case in the ICC is to be able to push back against the bullying and harassment that we have been encountering from our goliath of a neighbor," he said, referring to China.
"Today, with the holding of Former Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales by immigration authorities in Hong Kong as a security risk presumably due to the ICC case that we had filed, we are experiencing more of the same," he said.
Malacañang said Tuesday it has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to extend assistance to Morales as she faced deportation.
Del Rosario, who formerly headed the department, expressed thanks to the agency.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said Morales' ICC communication against Chinese officials could be the reason why she was held by immigration officials.
"I can't find any reason for this incident except former Ombudsman Morales' filing of a complaint against China's President Xi before the International Criminal Court," he said in a statement.
"Regardless of the reason, however, we may not question the action taken by Chinese immigration officials, as the entry of foreigners or the refusal thereof is the exclusive and sovereign prerogative of any country," he added.
- with reports from Lynda Jumilla, Henry Omaga-Diaz, Mike Navallo and Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News