Philippines Detains 84-Year-Old Australian Rights Activist

Froilan Gallardo
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
180808-PH-rights-1000.jpg A protester peers behind a huge cutout of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in camouflage uniform during a rally northeast of Manila to denounce alleged escalating human rights violations in the country, May 21, 2018.

An 84-year-old Australian activist has been detained and is to be deported by Philippine immigration authorities, a local rights group said Wednesday, a month after the government deported an American and two Africans for the same offense.

Gil Boehringer, a law professor from Australia, was prevented entry into Manila early Wednesday shortly after arriving from Sydney, according to Karapatan, a local rights group.

“He was told by immigration officers that he will be deported and that he is on their blacklist due to his alleged participation in a rally in the Philippines,” Karapatan said in a statement.

It said Boehringer, who is married to a Filipina and has American dual-citizenship status, has been campaigning for human rights in the Philippines for about eight years.

He recently has been campaigning for members of a local indigenous community on the southern island of Mindanao, which has been under martial law since last year as the government moved to defeat Muslim militants.

Three foreign activists – an American, and two African missionaries – were deported recently for visiting the south to investigate alleged abuses blamed on the army, particularly the killing in December of at least eight members of an indigenous community in the southern province of Lake Sebu.

A fourth missionary, Catholic nun Patricia Fox of Australia, was ordered deported by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. Duterte had bristled at protests led by the Catholic Church questioning his government’s anti-drug war that has left thousands of people dead.

Fox, 71, won a reprieve from the justice department, but the immigration bureau, recently upheld its decision to deport her. She has filed an appeal, but has said that if she loses, she was prepared

to leave the country she has served for nearly 28 years.

“Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful to all those Filipinos that I call my friends and for all those from both church and sectors who have supported me through this time,” she has said.

“I may lose my right to be in the Philippines but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories,” she said.

The government charged her with violating the terms of her religious visa, and the presidential palace released pictures showing her joining a workers’ rally.

Duterte has said that he has personally taken issue with this, because “foreigners do not have the right to criticize us.”

Richel V. Umel in Iligan City contributed to this report.


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