Arrest and deportation of international support groups worries Social development and advocacy network; Bishop dismayed by lack of humanitarian sense of Government officials
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a social development and advocacy network pushing for peace and development, expresses concern over the series of arrest aimed at limiting the engagement of international partners and solidarity groups with the Filipino community.
Yesterday, April 16, Sister Pat Fox, 71, an Australian missionary living in the Philippines for 27 years was arrested for her so called “illegal political activities.” She came to the country as lay missionary of the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion. As a foreign missionary she has devoted her life working with the peasants, and the most vulnerable sectors to help improve their lives.
The day before, April 15, Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists, was refused entry to the Philippines due to his supposed engagement in illegal political activities. He was invited to speak at an Akbayan Party-list Congress but was stopped at Cebu Airport on his way to the Congress.
“We are very much worried about these developments that seemingly target foreign partners of civil society organizations. These unfortunate incidents further bolstered our previous fears and anxieties as President Duterte has constantly been insolent towards various international rights groups and international development organizations,” Yoly Esguerra PMPI National Coordinator said.
Last week, President Duterte also warned Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court from entering the country stating that he will make sure that the Prosecutor will be arrested immediately if she sets foot in the Philippines.
“International human rights groups and development organizations are committed partners in the civil society organization’s efforts of helping poor communities make their economic lives better by training and empowering them to access and claim their rights especially from corrupt government officials. We are concerned that this will further signal an overstepping of the agreed upon boundaries on international relations and limit international support and solidarity actions for our communities. International support and solidarity both technical and logistical are keys in the success of many actions to fight poverty and achieve social justice,” Esguerra added.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila Auxiliary Bishop and PMPI Bishop Convenor of the NCR Urban Cluster, on the one hand raised alarm and expressed dismay over the arrest of Sister Pat Fox. He said that he was able to contact Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente and pleaded to the Commissioner to allow the nun to go home for a night so she can take her proper medication for her ailment. The commissioner refused on the ground that she has committed immigration irregularities and would not accept Sr. Pat’s alibi that her passport is with her travel agents currently processing her trip abroad.
“My heart bleeds while leaving the place as one of the companion of Sr. Pat called that they were sent to sleep in a room where there are no beds and was instructed just to lie down and sleep on cold cement floor,” the Bishop said with a heavy heart.
“The grip is getting tighter; getting hard on people who manifest dissent against the abuses of the government. This is already happening without Martial Law. What would it be if there were Martial Law, which hangs heavy in the air! The victim can even be a woman, an elderly, and a religious. Before, they were the poor, the young, and the gullible. Let us be wary. This government cannot take dissent. It uses the machineries of the state – and even the law – to bring down people, whoever and whatever their condition may be.” Bishop Pabillo further emphasized.