Foreigner destabilizers not welcome in the Philippines

Published April 20, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Getsy Tiglao
Getsy Tiglao

By Getsy Tiglao


What’s this big fuss about a European activist being deported from the country and an Australian nun being arrested for illegal political activities? All these happened before, in 2013 during the previous administration, and the response then to the government’s strong-arm moves was very muted.

On September 17, 2013, Sister Patricia Fox of the group Religious Discernment of the Philippines was arrested by Tarlac police, together with eight other people, for illegal assembly, direct assault, trespass to dwelling, and malicious mischief. Isn’t it a sin to break the law, Sister?

Fox, an Australian national, was protesting the land distribution scheme in Hacienda Luisita, the vast estate owned by former President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III, which the nun’s group alleged was marked by fraud, coercion, and harassment of beneficiaries.

Just a month earlier, on August 6, 2013, Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum was stopped from boarding his flight to China so that the Bureau of Immigration could implement its summary deportation order against him. He was taken to the BI holding area, his mugshot and fingerprints taken, and he was deported back to the Netherlands.

Immigration officials under the Aquino government said that Beersum had been declared an “undesirable alien” and his name placed on the “Alert List Order.”

The Dutch activist became infamous for cursing and berating a Filipino policeman during a protest rally against the government while Aquino was delivering his July, 2013, State of the Nation Address. In an open letter, he also said he was denouncing Aquino’s record on human rights.

Beersum scolded the policeman, SPO1 Joselito Sevilla, who was securing the area where Aquino was giving his speech. Sevilla must have been so frustrated that he had to take all that cursing from a foreigner – in his own country no less! – that he openly cried. He obeyed to the extreme the order of maximum tolerance.

The more appropriate move from Sevilla would have been to punch that arrogant Dutch guy flat in the face. He would have done the nation proud if he did.

Five years later, we again have these same types of foreigners arriving in the country to engage in destabilizing political activities. Actually, one is not just the same type, she is the same person!

Fox, who is now identified as a missionary with the Sion sisters, was arrested last Monday by immigration personnel under the Duterte administration for her participation in anti-government activities. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency provided the BI with photographs showing Fox’s participation at a rally in Tagum, Davao.

The Australian nun denied participating in political acts and she said her detention was the first time this has happened to her in the Philippines. Lying is also a sin, Sister. (By the way, it’s time to get out of this medieval mindset where we see nuns and priests as gods and saints – they are not. They’re just people. They are not exempt from the law.)

Meanwhile, European activist Giacomo Filibeck was denied entry and deported as he attempted to enter the country last Sunday via the Mactan-Cebu airport. Filibeck was expected to attend a meeting of the left-wing anti-government group the Akbayan Party.

Immigration officials said that Filibeck violated BI Operations Order No. SBM-2015-025 issued during the Aquino administration that prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activities in the country.

“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,” said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

“As 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 added.

Filibeck, an Italian national, was part of group of white Europeans who created quite a scene in October, 2017, when they had themselves photographed with placards saying “Stop the Killings” and “Stop Silencing Dissent.” (The latter one is especially hilarious: the very fact that they can get themselves on the front pages of newspapers debunks their own propaganda placard.)

This partisan political act by Europeans such as Filibeck was such a shameless interference in our domestic affairs that it prompted an outburst from President Rodrigo Duterte, legendary for his passionate, some say too colorful, defense of the country’s sovereignty.

The Europeans were first identified as officials of the European Union, and then European parliamentarians, and only later was it discovered that apart from two obscure parliamentarians, the rest were just NGO (nongovernmental organizations) types.

Curiously, though, part of that group photo denouncing Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs was an American official, Thomas O. Melia, assistant administrator for Europe and Asia of the US government’s Agency for International Development (USAID). Why is a USAID official engaging in a partisan activity, and one designed to denigrate and destabilize the Duterte government?

I hope this bit of “history” about meddling Europeans and nasty nuns would enlighten those in the Senate and House who are once again engaged in knee-jerk reactions ready-made for media. Let’s try siding with Filipinos for a change instead of foreigners. It’s called patriotism.