Palace: No crackdown on foreigners, just the law

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Palace: No crackdown on foreigners, just the law
Patricia Fox, the Australian nun apprehended by Immigration officers, greets supporters on Tuesday following her release.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — A Palace spokesperson on Thursday denied that there is a crackdown on foreigners in the country, saying that the ban on their participation in political activities is in the law.

“It’s not a crackdown. It’s really the law. The law may be harsh, but such is the law,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who at one point in his life was a human rights lawyer, said on Thursday.

Speaking a day after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he ordered the Bureau of Immigration to investigate Patricia Fox, an Australian nun, for her “disorderly behavior,” Roque cited past cases of a Dutch and an Australian who were apprehended because of their presence in political assemblies.

'No contradiction'

Roque also said that there was no contradiction between his statement on Wednesday that apologies may be in order over the arrest of Fox and Duterte’s public tirade against the 71-year-old nun.

“It seems that there was a mistake in the case of Sister Fox and maybe apologies are in order because she was immediately released by CID (Commission on Immigration and Deportation, an old name for the BI). CID also commits mistakes,” Roque said in Filipino in a television interview on Wednesday morning.

However, on Thursday, Roque said:

“There’s no difference. I said my statement early in the morning on the basis of the cardinal statement that the reason why the nun was released was because she was not a subject of summary deportation because she was not caught in flagrante delicto,” the president’s spokesman said.

Duterte on Wednesday blasted Fox, 71, for her supposed vocal criticism of the government and told her to slam the Australian government and the Catholic Church instead for their failings and sins.

Fox is an Australian nun who has been living in the Philippines for 27 as a missionary and as an advocate of farmers' rights.

The nun was arrested on Monday and was detained until Tuesday for her supposed violations of an immigration order banning citizens of other countries from participating in partisan activities.

'CPC members did not join protests'

Roque said that their participation in political assemblies was different from the presence of several Chinese officials in the anniversary celebration of the ruling PDP-Laban in February.

Sheng Chuanliang, Communist Party of China Vice Minister Giu Yeshoul and Zhao Jianhua, the Chinese envoy to the Philippines, were some of the guests of honor in the event.

A briefing on the life and thoughts of Chinese President Xi Jinping was also given to the members present in the celebration.

For Roque, this was simply a formal meeting in which two parties forged an agreement.

“They signed an agreement. These (foreigners) are joining protests. The distinction is clear,” Roque said.

Based on Immigrations Operations Order SBM-2015-025, “foreign tourists are prohibited from engaging in any political activity as defined by law and jurisprudence, such as but not limited to, joining, supporting, contributing or involving themselves in whatever manner in any rally, assembly, gathering, whether for or against the government.”

This was also the order cited by the government for deporting Giacamo Filibeck of the Party of European Socialists, who was supposed to attend a congress organized by Akbayan in Cebu over the weekend.

READ: CHR: Foreigners can participate in peaceful assemblies

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