The Philippines has detained an elderly Australian activist for being a “threat to public order”, in the latest action against foreigners accused of political opposition.
Gill Boehringer, 84, a former law professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University, was turned away at Manila International Airport because he was on a blacklist for joining a demonstration in 2015. The academic, who is originally from the United States, said the allegation was “absolute nonsense”.
Another elderly Australian, the nun Patricia Fox was declared an “undesirable alien” by Manila in July and her deportation has been ordered. She was accused of political activism by attending protests on the troubled southern island of Mindanao against martial law and in support of the indigenous population.
Rights group Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, of which Boehringer is a member, condemned his detention and threatened deportation.
Its chairman, Peter Brock, said Boehringer was a “champion” for human rights, justice and accountability and “certainly not radical”.
Boehringer had been aware there was a risk of going back to the Philippines after the Fox affair, Brock added.
“It’s not interference in another country to raise concerns about human-rights violations,” Brock told AAP.
“You shouldn’t stay silent when things are happening in other countries.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned for alleged human rights abuses, mostly over the slaughter of thousands in his war on drugs. Duterte denies the allegations, often using very agricultural language in the process.
The thin-skinned president said he ordered her expulsion and Fox has appealed against the ruling.
Boehringer, who is married to a Filipino woman, said he joined a fact-finding mission about indigenous Mindanao communities this year, saying the immigration bureau’s accusation that he joined protests was “trumped up”.
“This is part of the government’s campaign to keep foreigners away from what they’re doing … the injustices, the killings, the disappearances,” the retired academic said.
Government immigration spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said blacklisting was used when foreigners were deemed to be “a threat to public order and safety” and Boehringer could appeal against the deportation.
The human-rights group Karapatan (Rights) said Boehringer’s case showed the Duterte administration was “showing its cracks, defensive and scared”.
Dr Geneve Rivera-Reyes of the group Health Action for Human Rights gave Boehringer a medical examination while he was in detention and said it was “not safe” for him to travel without medical attention.
Rivera-Reyes said he was suffering from deep vein thrombosis and cellulitis on both legs.
“The Bureau of Immigration is being heartless in pursuing the deportation of Prof Gill Boehringer,” Rivera-Reyes posted on Facebook
Australia’s foreign affairs department said it was providing consular assistance.
Mindanao remains a troubled island. Picture credit: PXHere