SINGAPORE – A Filipino nurse working in Singapore was sentenced Monday to four months in jail for describing Singaporeans as losers on his Facebook, and subsequently providing false information to police investigators.
Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, 28, pleaded guilty to a charge of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility under the country's sedition act, and two charges of providing false information to the police. An additional charge under the sedition act, and another for lying to the police, was also considered during sentencing.
In a Facebook post on Jan. 2 that received more than 600 hostile replies, Bello called Singaporeans "loosers (sic) in their own country".
Singapore will soon be the "new Filipino state," he wrote. He added: "We take their jobs, their future, their women, and soon, we will evict all SG loosers out of their own country."
The Filipino also stated that he was "praying that disastors (sic) strike Singapore and more Singaporeans will die," and that he would "celebrate" if this happened.
Following the hostility his comments generated, Bello deleted them and lodged a police report, claiming that someone logged into his Facebook account without permission.
Bello was dismissed from his job at Singapore's Tan Tock Seng Hospital after it was discovered that he had made three other similar online posts in 2014.
In sentencing Bello, district judge Siva Shanmugam emphasized that xenophobic comments had no place in cosmopolitan Singapore as they posed "a threat to our social stability and security".
"The local-foreigner divide has remained a challenging fault line in our society in recent times," Shanmugam said.
"Unlike the limited effect and reach of distinct racial or religious issues, this divide affects all and sundry and cannot be regarded as any less delicate or sensitive in the current context," he added.
The sedition charge is deserving of a three-month jail term, said Shanmugam, who took into account Bello's status as a first-time offender.
Two counts of providing false information to public officers were awarded a month in jail each, with punishment on these counts running consecutively.
On Aug. 27, Philippine authorities said they respected the decision of Singapore's court to convict Bello of sedition.
Bello, who was dressed in white and brown prison garb, looked straight ahead as the judgment was read in a relatively empty courtroom.
The maximum punishment for inciting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of Singapore's population is a three-year jail term and a 5,000 Singapore dollars ($3,555) fine.
For giving false information to the police, offenders face a punishment of up to a year in jail and a fine of 5,000 Singapore dollars ($3,555).
Singapore courts have in the past similarly punished offenders for making public remarks seen as seditious and likely to stir racial trouble.
About 40 percent of Singapore's population of 5.47 million is made up of foreigners, most of them from neighboring countries including the Philippines. A large number of Filipinos work in the hospitality, medical and entertainment industries. Singapore citizens' three main races are Chinese, Malay and Indians.