Palace defends deportation of EU party exec
Deciding whom to allow into the country is an exercise of sovereignty, Malacañang said on Monday, defending immigration officials’ move to deny entry and deport a Socialist Party official from the European Union who had criticized President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
Italian Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary general of the Party of European Socialists (PES), was held by immigration officers when he arrived at Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City around 3 p.m. on Sunday and was immediately deported.
Filibeck, a native of Rome, was due to attend a two-day congress of the opposition Akbayan Party with about 20 other foreign delegates but was stopped at the immigration counter and handed a slip of paper informing him that he had been blacklisted for participating in illegal political activities.
The other foreigners were allowed entry.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer, said the Philippines was exercising its right not to accept anyone it didn’t want to be in its territory when it denied entry and deported Filibeck.
He said deciding whom to allow entry was always a sovereign decision.
“So we are not obliged to allow anyone into our territory if we do not want them in our territory. Unfortunately, the socialist leader was one of those that we determine as a person that we don’t want to be in our territory,” Roque told reporters.
He said no rule under international law could compel the Philippines to allow Filibeck entry.
“That’s the exercise of sovereignty,” he said.
Filibeck flew to the Philippines at the invitation of Akbayan, which condemned the Duterte administration’s move as a gag on dissent.
“Akbayan condemns, in the strongest terms, the detention and deportation of European human rights leader Giacomo Filibeck,” the party said in a statement. Akbayan is a sister party of PES.
“This unfortunate incident only shows how paranoid this government is in keeping the rest of the world blind from the damage President Duterte has done to our country,” Akbayan said.
In Europe, PES also protested “in the strongest possible terms the unjustified detention and deportation” of Filibeck. It said it had informed EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini of the incident.
Sergei Stanishev, PES president, said it was “unacceptable” that a member of the party “should be treated as a criminal on orders of the government and forcibly deported from the country.”
“Clearly, the President intends to silence criticism of his deadly policies both at home and abroad,” Stanishev added.
But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there was basis to prohibit Filibeck from entering the Philippines.
“It is unlawful for aliens staying in our country to engage in partisan political activities, and the government has the right to refuse entry to those who have committed these illegal acts in the past,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said Filibeck engaged in partisan political activity, which foreigners are prohibited from doing under Philippine immigration law.
“He was not supposed to do that. Being a tourist, he does not enjoy the rights and privileges of a Philippine citizen, particularly the exercise of political rights, which are exclusively reserved for Filipinos,” Morente said.
Denounced drug killings
Justine Balane, Akbayan Youth coordinator, said Filibeck was in the Philippines in October 2017 together with an international human rights fact-finding mission that visited communities that had lost members to Mr. Duterte’s bloody crackdown on narcotics, and openly denounced the killings.
The Inquirer tried to reach Filibeck through his Facebook account but he had not responded yet as of this reporting.
In a statement, Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin said he would file a resolution in the House of Representatives to look into the “shameful blacklisting” of Filibeck.
In its statement, Akbayan described the charge of illegal political activities against Filibeck as “ridiculous.”
It said the charge was Mr. Duterte’s “way of saying he wants to criminalize criticism.”
Akbayan said the President, against whom a complaint for crimes against humanity has been brought in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over the killings in the war on drugs, was “scared of the global condemnation of his policy to kill.”
“Duterte detained and deported Filibeck because he is scared of human rights defenders. He is hiding something about the killings in the Philippines. This is a clear sign that Duterte will block all efforts to bring justice to Filipino victims of the killings,” the group said.
Last week, the President threatened to arrest ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda if she came to the Philippines to investigate the killings.
He has withdrawn the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the international treaty underpinning the ICC, to take the country out of the court’s jurisdiction.
Withdrawal, however, does not remove the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed during the time a country was a party to the statute, as happened to Burundi, which remains under ICC investigation for crimes against humanity despite dropping out of the statute in 2017.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 12,000 Filipinos have been killed since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs on July 1, 2016.
The Philippine National Police, however, says only 4,100 people who resisted arrest have been killed, while 2,300 have been killed in what it calls deaths under investigation. —With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, Vince F. Nonato and the wires
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