Government deports European Socialist party official

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Government deports European Socialist party official
Image taken from the Akbayan’ s Instagram account shows Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists, being held by immigration officials at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport last Sunday.

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday stood by the decision of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to deny entry and deport a Socialist Party official from the European Union who had criticized President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists (PES), was denied entry on Sunday at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for alleged illegal political activities.

The BI also picked up at her home for questioning yesterday a 71-year-old Australian nun and rights advocate reportedly for participating in protest rallies.

Filibeck was due to attend the two-day Akbayan Party Congress with about 20 other foreign delegates, but was stopped at the immigration counter and handed a slip of paper informing him of a blacklist order. Other foreigners were allowed entry.

Akbayan party-list is a sister party of PES.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the deportation of Filibeck is the Philippine government’s “exercise of sovereignty.”

“In international law, it is always a sovereign decision whom they wish to allow into their territory, so we are not obliged to allow anyone in our territory if we do not want them in our territory,” he said.

 “Unfortunately, the socialist leader was one of those that we determine as a person we don’t want to be in our country,” he added. “There is no rule under international law that would compel the Philippine authorities to admit anyone whom the government decides to ban in the country.”

Filibeck was in the Philippines in October 2017 together with an international human rights fact-finding mission which denounced the killings under Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

In a statement, European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen said, “We are aware of the incident and are seeking immediate and sound clarifications from the Philippine authorities as to why this took place.”

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said Filibeck violated BI Operations Order No. SBM-2015-025 that prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activities in the Philippines.

“Foreign tourists in the Philippines are enjoined to observe the limitation on the exercise of their political rights during their stay in the Philippines. He was not supposed to do that because being a tourist he does not enjoy the rights and privileges of a Philippine citizen, particularly the exercise of political rights which are exclusively reserved to Filipinos,” Morente said.

“We cannot allow the entry of foreigners who have shown disrespect to our duly-constituted authorities by meddling and interfering in our internal affairs as a sovereign nation,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra justified the BI’s action on Filibeck.

“It is unlawful for aliens staying in our country to engage in partisan political activities, and the government has the right to refuse entry to those who have committed these illegal acts in the past,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.

Akbayan has slammed the deportation of Filibeck.

“Akbayan condemns, in the strongest terms, the detention and deportation of European human rights leader Giacomo Filibeck,” Akbayan said in a statement. 

“This unfortunate incident only shows how paranoid this government is in keeping the rest of the world blind from the damage President Duterte has done to our country,” the group added.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said he would file a House resolution to look into “this shameful incident.”

“The ridiculous charge of illegal political activities is Duterte’s way of saying he wants to criminalize criticisms,” he added.s

Akbayan said Duterte, who is under scrutiny by the international community, including the International Criminal Court, for the killings “is scared of the global condemnation against his policy to kill.”

Roque also slammed Akbayan, saying, “Let the people decide because Akbayan has never had anything good to say about the President.”

In Europe, PES also protested “in the strongest possible terms the unjustified detention and deportation” of one of its senior officials in the Philippines.

Sergei Stanishev, PES president, said it was “unacceptable” that a member of the party “should be treated as a criminal on orders of the government and forcibly deported from the country.”

“Clearly, the President intends to silence criticism of his deadly policies both at home and abroad,” he added.s

Filibeck was not the first foreigner expelled for engaging in political activities.

In August 2013, Dutch activist Thomas Van Beersum was deported after he joined a rally against former president Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address.

Beersum was photographed yelling at a weeping riot police officer during the protest outside the Congress building in Quezon City.

BI apprehends Australian nun

The BI also apprehended Australian nun and human rights advocate Sister Patricia Fox for questioning yesterday afternoon.

Fox, 71, is the superior of the Notre Dame de Sion (Our Lady of Sion) Philippine province and has been living in the Philippines for 27 years. 

Fox was taken from her home in Project 2, Quezon City at past 2 p.m. yesterday. 

The BI issued a statement confirming that Fox was under its custody.

“We confirm the apprehension of Patricia Fox pursuant to a Mission Order issued by Commissioner Jaime Morente. The apprehending officers are still in the process of completing their reports, documentation and affidavit of arrest. We await the submission of  the reports and affidavits before we issue our official statement,” BI said.

This is not the first time that Fox has been arrested. In 2013, she was arrested during a protest in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac. 

Fox said that while she was at the BI Intelligence Division, she heard that she was invited because she joined rallies. 

“After a while someone told me ‘for being in rallies.’ I did not say anything until my lawyer arrived. I was also told about her status,” she added.

Her companions said she is holding a missionary visa that is valid until September this year. – With Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Pia Lee-Brago, Reuters

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