By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is considering a deployment ban of OFWs to Hong Kong, at least while the almost daily pro-democracy strikes and protests threaten to bring chaos to China’s so-called Special Administrative Region.
Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III admitted that the plan was firmed up by the arrest of an OFW on July 3 on suspicions of participating in the protests. The OFW, Disneyland worker Jethro Pioquinto, was arrested by Hong Kong police while innocently passing by a group of protesters in the Mongkok district.
A segment of a live-streamed video showing a distraught Pioquinto while being escorted by the police was uploaded in the Facebook timeline of a friend of the OFW.
“Actually, (Jethro Pioquinto) was not part of the protest action. He was suspected to be part of the protest and arrested… We are already monitoring his case,” Bello said.
Pioquinto’s arrest is the first arrest of a Filipino in Hong Kong since the anti-government protests started months back.
Deputy Consul General to Hong Kong Germinia Aguilar-Usudan said Pioquinto is still under police custody at the North Point Police Station. Usudan said Pioquinto denied any participation in the protest rally.
Usudan said the worker was wearing a black shirt at the time, the color motif of protesters calling for democratic reforms in the territory. “He is set to be interviewed by the police and we have two consulate staff to assist him. There are also three pro-bono lawyers assisting him,” Usudan told CNN Philippines, adding that “no formal charges has been filed” against the OFW.
Under Hong Kong laws, police has to file charges within 48 hours against any person who has been arrested and detained, otherwise, he shall be released from detention.
Usudan said the Filipino worker underwent a medical check-up on Sunday accompanied by consulate staff, and assured he was fine and in good condition. “He has no major injuries,” she added.
Usudan said the situation in Hong Kong remains relatively safe although she noted that the consulate advised Filipinos to avoid areas where the protests are taking place.
“The general situation here is relatively safe though this morning the transport services of the MTR (mass transit) was disrupted so we used buses and taxis in going to work,” she said.
She appealed to Filipinos in Hong Kong to avoid wearing black and white shirts to avoid being mistaken both by the police and pro-government supporters.
Usudan said the Philippine consulate has advised OFWs in the territory to Tamar Park in the Admiralty, Sha Tin Town Hall Plaza, Tuen Mun Park, Discovery Park, Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin Square, Macpherson Playground, Mongkok and Kwung Fok Football Park, Taipo.
Bello said an evaluation of the Hong Kong situation will be concluded in the coming days. “Within the week, we will probably find out some developments,” he said.
There are about 211, 000 Filipinos living and working in Hong Kong, a territory popular as a tourist and shopping destination for many Filipinos. Majority of OFWs there are domestic helpers.
Hong Kong police said on Monday they arrested 44 people after some protest actions turned violent overnight and forced police to fire tear gas to disperse demonstrators who moved swiftly across the city in flash mob-style actions.
The Chinese-controlled city has been rocked by months of protests that began against an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial and had since evolved into calls for greater democracy.
Hong Kong braced for major disruptions to businesses on Monday as a general strike again threatened to paralyze parts of the Asian financial center, with more than 100 flights already cancelled, amid a broader anti-government campaign.