By Genalyn Kabiling
Foreigners may visit the country free from harassment of the police, immigration, and other authorities but must “better behave,” President Duterte said last Tuesday.
The President has discouraged foreign visitors from criticizing his government, saying he would accept attacks or insults only from Filipinos.
“If you are a citizen of another country and a tourist here, you better behave. You know, I can take any criticism however bad it is, however discourteous o kabastos [or rude], as long as it comes from a Filipino, I will accept it,” he said during an entrepreneurship summit in Clark, Pampanga Tuesday.
“Turista ka dito [You’ re a tourist] then you come here under the cloak of what religion and start to blabber your mouth and attack us. ‘Mga g*** kayong mga…’ Who gave you that right to do it in my country? I’m not doing it to you. We are not doing it because we are afraid of going to prison,” he added.
Duterte said only Filipinos have the right to criticize his government since they pay his salary. “If you begin to attack me because I am not credible or I am incompetent or I have fallen short of my promise to you, then, by all means, do it,” he added.
The President issued the reminder to foreign tourists after immigration authorities pushed for the deportation of an Australian nun Patricia Fox after engaging in alleged political activities. An existing immigration order prohibits foreigners from joining, supporting, or contributing in any rally, assembly or gathering whether for or against the government.
The President, however, assured that he has prohibited immigration officers from accosting foreign tourists in the country unless they commit a crime. The same directive has been relayed to the police and the military.
Duterte made the directive after he felt embarrassed when the 2016 murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was raised during his recent visit to Seoul. In October 2016, Jee was abducted and later killed allegedly by policemen inside Camp Crame, the national police headquarters in Quezon City.
“Kaya pagdating ko dito [So when I arrived] I said, ‘no more.’ I am putting on notice everyone in the Immigration. Stop f****** the visitors,” Duterte said.
“Huwag kayo pagka may stamp na diyan sa passport [Once there is a stamp on the passport] accepted for 45 days, you do not, you do not question. It’s beyond question anymore unless he commits a crime or there is a special order from (Immigration chief Jaime) Morente,” he said.
“Nobody but nobody — police, military, or Immigration — can accost in public,” he added.
He noted that tourists are not usually bothered in other countries such as the United States.
“You have been to the States almost all of you here. Kita mo naman. Ba’t tinatanong ka ba diyan sa hotel? [You’ve seen it. Were you asked questions at the hotel?] All they ask is the passport then you check in. But nobody really messes you up when you go around visiting,” he said.