The Philippines immigration bureau said Tuesday it ordered three Christian missionaries to leave the country for allegedly violating the terms of their visas and engaging in political activities.
In addition, the three members of the United Methodist Church, Tawanda Chandiwana of Zimbabwe, Adam Shaw of Ohio and Miracle Osman of Malawi, have been placed on the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) blacklist and barred from entering the country again.
The church’s bishop in Manila released a statement saying he was saddened by the decision because the three were being deported for doing missionary work.
“As missionaries they were sent to live with the people and empathize with their daily struggles,” Bishop Ciriaco Francisco said in a statement, adding the three had joined an international fact finding and solidarity mission in February as part of their mandate.
“One of their purposes was to be in touch and provide comfort and solidarity with the families of the victims of the Lake Sebu massacre,” Francisco said.
In December 2017, Philippine forces reported killing seven communist rebels and taking over a rebel camp following days of gun battles in Lake Sebu town. Community members claim eight residents were killed in a massacre – not the encounter claimed by the military.
Chandiwana, who is detained in a jail cell south of Manila, is to be deported after he is cleared to leave by the National Bureau of Investigation, the BI said.
He “was also ordered to leave, being the subject of a government intelligence report for his alleged involvement in leftist-organized activities,” the bureau said, adding he was arrested in May in the southern city of Davao, President Rodrigo Duterte’s home town.
In addition, Chandiwana is considered an “overstaying alien” because his missionary visa expired in April.
Shaw had admitted to working in the Philippines without a visa from 2011 to 2013. He was granted a missionary visa in 2017, but it expired last April.
“He was also ordered to leave for engaging in missionary work without a visa, for overstaying, and for involvement in leftist activities,” immigration spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said.
Osman and Shaw have been placed on the immigration blacklist “following reports on their involvement in leftist activities,” she said, insisting that despite the deportation orders, there was no crackdown on foreign missionaries as portrayed in the local press.
The three are to leave the country soon, although no dates have been specified.
Sandoval said the agency had issued about 500 visas to missionaries who are allowed to stay in the country as long as they do not join “partisan political activities.”
The Philippines has been deporting or seeking to deport foreigners who have been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has left thousands dead since he took office two years ago.
An Australian Catholic nun, Sister Patricia Fox, 71, recently won a temporary reprieve from the justice department after she questioned Duterte’s deportation order. Last week, she came to the defense of the three, arguing that missionaries were required to live in solidarity with the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Meanwhile, Francisco saw a positive outcome for the missionaries.
“Nonetheless, we welcome this development, like a bitter pill, because it will pave the way for them to leave the country and be out of harm’s way, and to be with their love ones,” Francisco said.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.