Thai national Prasertsi Kosin, who was working in the Philippines, rose to popularity when his Facebook comments insulting Filipinos went viral. In various posts, he called Filipinos “pignoys” and “stupid creatures,” among other countless derogatory names. Since then, he has been let go by the local company he has been working for. The Bureau of Immigration (BOI) has also issued a deportation charge should it be determined that he is an “undesirable alien.” Kosin has since then apologised for his remarks. BOI proceedings are presently ongoing.
7 May 2015
Hon. Siegfred B. Mison
Bureau of Immigration
Dear Commissioner Mison,
We write to you today to express our deep concern regarding news that the Bureau of Immigration lodged an undesirability charge against Mr. Prasertsi Kosin and subsequently arrested him on 6 May 2015. We heard from news reports that the basis for the charge and subsequent arrest is that Mr. Kosin allegedly called Filipinos “pignoys”, “stupid creatures”, “low-class slum slaves” and “useless race in this world.”
We appeal to you to drop all charges against Mr. Kosin and release him immediately.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Philippines is a State Party, guarantees the right to freedom of expression. This right is also embodied in Article 3, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution.
The right to freedom of expression does indeed carry with it special duties and responsibilities and may be restricted in certain exceptional circumstances. However, these restrictions or limitations must be the exception to the general rule and must be kept to the minimum necessary. Most importantly, when restrictions are imposed on the exercise of freedom of expression, it should not put in jeopardy the right itself.
Indeed, the statements of Mr. Kosin were offensive and have obviously sparked outrage from netizens. But offensive, hateful and downright irresponsible as they are, they were not criminal. If the authorities believed that his statements were recognizably criminal in character, they should have charged and prosecuted Mr. Kosin using applicable penal laws and respecting his right to due process of law. This did not happen in this case.
While the Bureau of Immigration may, for better or worse, have wide discretion to deport foreigners it deems “undesirable”, the Filipino community in Thailand entreats the Bureau to exercise maximum tolerance before punishing non-criminal acts of foreigners. While deportation is, by legal fiction, not criminal in nature, its impact is as harsh if not harsher than a criminal penalty such as a fine or community service.
In this case, we believe that the charges brought against Mr. Kosin, his subsequent arrest and handling before the media are disproportionate responses to the statements he made and did not have any basis in law. The response of the Bureau of Immigration has jeopardized the right to freedom of expression itself. Mr. Kosin has already issued a public apology. Let’s accept the apology and move on.
We Filipinos always pride ourselves as one country in ASEAN where people can freely speak their minds. This freedom is a critical foundation of our democracy and it will help make us more mature as a people.
By dropping the charges against Mr. Kosin and releasing him, we will be setting an example to our ASEAN neighbors, in a region where freedom of expression is severely under attack. We will be demonstrating that we are not afraid of contrarian statements and we welcome a wide variety of views from all people.
We need to show that we are a civilized nation where people engage each other in debates and discourse, without fear of being imprisoned or deported from the country.
That is how we promote our democracy. That is how we should lead, not only our fellow Filipinos, but also the rest of the ASEAN.
We reiterate, we appeal to you to drop all charges against Mr. Kosin and release him immediately.
Other netizens have also condemned what they perceive to be people’s overreaction to Kosin’s post. They are quick to point out that the whole issue originated from mere comments. This Facebook page quotes a GetRealPhilippines article saying, “The Filipino wants others to understand him because he is “special”, he is “unique”, and he is Filipino. Yet when asked to understand others, he ignores it and resorts to being judgmental and holier-than-thou.”
Original photo uploaded by Facebook user Chico Orange
What do you think about these reactions? Do you think Kosin should be deported?