RETIRED Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was held Tuesday by Hong Kong immigration authorities for being a “security threat,” her legal counsel confirmed.

“She was detained and separated from her family at Hong Kong immigration supposedly as a security threat,” lawyer Anne Marie Corominas said in a phone interview.

Ms. Morales was reportedly due for deportation but was later allowed to the Chinese territory. However, as of this reporting Tuesday late afternoon, she is expected to arrive in Manila at 8:00 p.m.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said he will issue a statement regarding this incident in Hong Kong.

In a social media post, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said, “Hong Kong port authorities have allowed her in but she and her family have chosen to stay in airport with DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) people and take 6 o’clock flight back to Manila. 2nd time this happens to a Pinoy.

For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters in a text message, “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 (ICC).”

“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.

Last March, Ms. Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert F. Del Rosario filed a communication to the ICC, seeking a preliminary examination on Mr. Xi and other officials over the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen at the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

For his part, the Presidential Spokesperson said: “We asked the Department of Foreign Affairs, through our Consulate General in Hong Kong, to render full assistance to the former Ombudswoman and her family for their safe and secure return to the Philippines.”

‘The same government assistance shall be given to each and every Filipino in distress abroad, and this is regardless of political persuasion or affinity.”

He also said, “We will defer to the immigration laws and rules of other countries much as we expect foreign nations to respect our country’s internal rules.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Arjay L. Balinbin