Rodrigo Duterte, Who Bristles at Foreign Critics, Has Begun Deporting Them

23-Apr-2018 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

23/Apr/2018 Intellasia | Nytimes

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has chafed at overseas criticism of his strongman style since he was elected to office in 2016, has overseen the deportation or detention of two foreign critics in recent days, taking personal responsibility for the arrest of a 71-year-old Australian nun.

“It was not the military who arrested this nun, the Catholic nun from Australia,” Duterte told an audience of soldiers on Wednesday. “It was upon my orders, implemented by the Bureau of Immigration. And I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident.”

The nun, Patricia Fox, a longtime Philippines resident, has been an activist for many years and has joined rallies against Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs, which has left thousands of Filipinos dead. She was detained Monday at her house in Manila after visiting the southern island of Mindanao, which has been under martial law for almost a year.

Sister Fox was held overnight and released on Tuesday, but she was expected to face deportation proceedings next week. Her arrest came a day after Giacomo Filibeck, an Italian official with the Party of European Socialists, was deported after landing in the Philippine city of Cebu. Filibeck has also been a critic of Duterte’s antidrug campaign.

Duterte said in his Wednesday speech that while the Constitution guaranteed Filipinos the right to criticise his government, no foreigner should be allowed to interfere in domestic affairs.

“You are a foreigner, who are you? You do not have the right to criticise us,” he said. “Do not insult us every time you open your mouth.”

Duterte has often bristled at what he considers foreign interference, particularly where human rights issues are concerned.

His war on drugs has been condemned by a host of Western leaders and international institutions. Overseas news organisations have reported extensively on the extrajudicial killings of drug users, suspected dealers and others; the Reuters news agency won a Pulitzer Prize this week for its coverage of the crackdown.

In February, the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that Duterte and other top officials committed crimes against humanity in the course of the crackdown. Duterte responded by saying the Philippines would pull out of the treaty that established The Hague-based tribunal.

Philippine immigration law says foreigners can be deported if they are members or supporters of groups that oppose the government. Under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, three activists from Canada and Europe were deported for joining street protests against the government. But in general, the provision has not been widely enforced.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said there could be more deportations of foreign critics. “If we are going to have an independent foreign policy, don’t tell us how to run the country,” he told an audience of foreign correspondents on Wednesday. “Don’t get involved in domestic affairs.”

Sister Fox said she believed she had been detained because of her activism against policies that in her view hurt poor Filipinos, including the president’s crackdown on drug dealers and users, in which the vast majority of those killed have been slum residents.

“I have been doing this here for the past 27 years and this was the first time I have been arrested,” she said on Thursday. She said she had surrendered her passport.

“I think that the president admitted that he ordered my arrest is pretty scary,” Sister Fox said. “But I have a lot of support from the Catholic Church hierarchy.” The church has considerable political influence in the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines. The immigration authorities said Filibeck had been blacklisted because of his association with left-leaning groups criticising the government. The European Union said it was seeking clarification from the government about his deportation, a Philippine news outlet reported.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political analyst with De La Salle University in Manila, said the moves against the two foreigners had more to do with their criticism of Duterte than with any violation of the law.

“If this were really about ensuring resident aliens and foreign visitors respecting domestic laws, then one would have expected a tougher crackdown on countless aliens who have been engaged in illicit activities in the country,” Heydarian said. “There is certainly a whiff of state intimidation against critical voices.”

Loretta Rosales, a former head of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, said the detention of Sister Fox showed that Duterte “cannot, and would not, tolerate dissent around him.”

She compared him to the long-ruling dictator Ferdinand Marcos, during whose regime Rosales, as an activist, was imprisoned and raped in detention. While Marcos tried to legitimise his rule through decrees and stole billions in secret, Rosales said Duterte openly “pays no attention to law.”

“Duterte is raw iron, while Marcos is polished steel, mixed with the right chemicals and minerals to endure and last longer,” Rosales said. “Duterte cannot last as long as Marcos.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-australian-nun.html

 


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