A Singapore court on Monday sentenced a Filipino nurse to four months in prison for posting inflammatory comments on Facebook against Singaporeans and lying to police investigators.
Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, 29, a former employee of government-run Tan Tock Seng Hospital, had posted comments insulting Singaporeans and calling for the takeover of the city-state by his countrymen.
State Courts Judge Siva Shanmugam sentenced Bello to three months in jail for sedition in relation to his Facebook posts, and another month for lying to police who investigated him following complaints from the public.
"In a nation whose only resource are its people, we simply cannot afford to condone any act which poses a threat to our social stability and security," the judge said.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of five months. Bello's lawyer told reporters his client would not appeal the sentence and hoped to be back in the Philippines by Christmas with a sentence reduction for good behaviour in prison.
Singapore, a densely populated immigrant nation which suffered racial riots in the 1960s, uses sedition laws to clamp down on locals and foreigners found to have incited ethnic tensions.
In a Facebook post on January 2, Bello wrote: "Singaporeans are loosers (sic) in their own country, we take their jobs, their future, their women and soon we will evict all SG loosers (sic) out of their own country hahaha."
In a subsequent comment, Bello said "we will kick out all the Singaporeans and SG will be the new filipino state".
After an outcry from Singaporeans, Bello took down his posts and claimed to police investigators that his account had been hacked by an unknown person. But he eventually admitted posting the comments.
Prosecutors said Bello's misleading statements to the police aggravated his original offences and led to "unnecessary wastage" of investigative resources.
- Provocative conduct -
Singaporeans who have written or published racist comments about other ethnic groups as well as foreigners have also been prosecuted.
The Filipino community in Singapore is estimated at more than 170,000. Once largely made up of maids, majority of the community is now in service jobs and professional positions including senior bankers and technology executives.
About 40 percent of Singapore's population of 5.5 million are foreigners. The wealthy city-state depends heavily on guest workers because of its low fertility rate.
In his sentencing remarks, the judge said Ello's postings on the now defunct Facebook page of an online forum called "The Real Singapore" had "the potential to harm relations between Singaporeans and Filipinos in Singapore."
"The accused's provocative conduct, if left unchecked, could possibly result in discrimination against the innocent and law-abiding minority Filipino residents in Singapore," the judge added.
A Singaporean man and Australian woman behind "The Real Singapore" are themselves facing sedition charges after publishing a false report that incited vitriolic online attacks on Filipinos in Singapore.
Bello could have been sentenced to three years in prison for sedition and a year for lying to the police, but the judge said he was a first-time offender who showed remorse by pleading guilty at the first opportunity