Group urges Bureau of Immigration to reconsider order against Dutch missionary

Published February 22, 2021, 10:11 AM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

The Church People – Workers Solidarity (CWS) has urged the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to reconsider its Order to send Dutch missionary Otto de Vries out of the country.

(Photo from the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights)

Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, chairperson of CWS, said the BI’s order on the cancellation of de Vries permanent resident visa and consequently leave the country was based upon the false and malicious allegations made by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) accusing the Dutch missionary of engaging and actively “participating in protest rallies of Communist-Terrorist Groups (CTG) front organizations.”

“Contrary to the allegations made by NICA, organizing workers’ associations and unions and educating them about their rights and welfare does not constitute acts of terrorism,” he said in a statement released Sunday, Feb. 21.

“Neither is doing research work about the concrete conditions of the working class an illegal political activity,” Alminaza added.

The group explained that de Vries came to the Philippines in May 1991 upon the invitation of the Infanta Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen to do pastoral work 

“For years, he was involved in various NGOs and church-based organizations advancing the rights of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed for many years,” Alminaza said.

“For almost three decades Mr. Otto lived in slum areas around Metro Manila in order to immerse himself in harsh conditions of the workers and urban poor. He worked as a welder, electrician, and maintenance of a steel factory in various factories. His experience in these workshops opened his eyes to the dehumanizing circumstances of contractual workers who receive below minimum wage and work in unsafe working environments,” he added.

Alminaza said the 62-year old Catholic missionary from the Netherlands has “exemplified, concretized, and lived out the mission of the church to become a Church of the Poor.” 

“Instead of harassing and intimidating church workers, CWS calls on the government to recognize the selfless contributions of Mr. Otto in uplifting the conditions of Filipino workers,” he said.