July 19, 2018, 5:53 am
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European Socialist leader barred for anti-drug war stance

THE Bureau of Immigration on Sunday barred a leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES) from entering the country for criticizing President Duterte’s war on drugs.

Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the PES, was denied entry at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for “illegal political activity.”

Filibeck was to attend a two-day congress of Akbayan, a sister party of the PES. He arrived at the airport with 20 other foreign delegates but was stopped at the immigration counter.

Akbayan, in a statement, said Filibeck, an Italian Socialist Party official who was part of the former ruling party in Rome, was given a slip of paper informing him that his name was on a blacklist order.

The other foreigners were allowed entry.

Filibeck was in the Philippines in October 2017 as part of an international human rights fact-finding mission which condemned Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

The Liberal Party and Akbayan partylist condemned the deportation of Filibeck, which they said showed the Duterte administration as “paranoid.”

“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,” Akbayan said in a statement.

The Liberal Party called the deportation of Filibeck as a “bureaucratic overkill.”

“The Duterte administration should be able to make a distinction between expressing criticisms and fomenting unrest. The presence of the foreign guests definitely is not aimed at the latter,” said LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

 “The cries for justice of the victims of the war on drugs are haunting the Duterte administration that it is beginning to believe that even well-meaning critics are dangerous,” said Pangilinan.

Pangilinan said Filibeck’s detention and deportation “also paints an ugly picture of the Philippines in the international community, as it showed the country as a place where visitors lose their right to free expression.”

“This practice goes against the spirit of democracy,” he said.

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

PES president Sergei Stanishev 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.

Rep. Tom Villarin (PL, Akbayan) said Filibeck’s deportation said “President Duterte leaves no room for opposition and no flights delayed for international human rights advocates.”

“Poor Filipinos get killed. Local dissenters get harassed. Now, foreign critics get deported,” he said. 

Villarin, a member of the opposition, said he would file a resolution asking the House to “look into this shameful incident.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Jr. said the ban on Filibeck is part of the Philippines exercising its sovereignty.

Roque said Filibeck is one of the persons “we don’t want to be in our territory” and there is no international law that could compel the Philippines to change its decision.

He shrugged off Akbayan’s claim of government being paranoid against critics. He said the militant group never had anything good to say about the President and his administration.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “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.”

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said Filibeck was denied entry and blacklisted because he violated the conditions of his stay as a tourist when he came into the country last year and engage in partisan political activity which is forbidden under immigration law.

“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 for Filipinos,” Morente said. – With Ashzel Hachero, Wendell Vigilia and Jocelyn Montemayor
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