For criticizing gov’t, another Aussie barred from PH

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By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent

For previously criticizing certain government policies, another elderly Australian citizen was barred from entering the Philippines and was held at the immigration exclusion room at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for deportation.

The Bureau of Immigration said Australian university professor Gil Boehringer was kept at the exclusion room and then turned over to the airlines which would be responsible for flying him back to where he came from.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said Boehringer was supposed to board a flight to Guangzhou, China — his port of origin on August 8. “But the airlines reported that he had medical issues and was unable to board,” Sandoval added in a message to reporters.

Boehringer, an 84-year-old Australian professor and human rights advocate, was barred entry to the country upon his arrival, midnight of August 8. He has since been held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

He said that he was only informed that he was under the Immigration’s blacklist when he handed his passport upon arrival. According to Immigration, Boehringer “was the subject of an order issued last year prohibiting (his) entry upon receipt of a report and recommendation for blacklisting from government intelligence sources.”

Sandoval said that the professor reportedly joined a rally in November 2015 which is “in clear violation of the BI Operations Order prohibiting foreigners in engaging in political activities.”

The expulsion of Boehringer came after another Australian, 71-year-old Sister Patricia Fox, went through the same troubles for allegedly participating in rallies. She is the superior of the Notre Dame de Sion in the Philippines, a congregation of Catholic nuns. Fox has lived in Manila for 27 years.

Boehringer denied that he has links with “communist terrorist groups” as BI alleged and attended a rally in 2015.

In a statement released through human rights group Karapatan, Boehringer also denied that he attended a rally to protest the holding of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November 2015.

“The legality, or not, of attending such a rally is a vexed question at the present time. I will not enter that debate at this point. What I will say is that I did not attend that rally. That charge is false,” Boehringer said.

The Immigration bureau said Boehringer was placed on the blacklist for reportedly participating in a rally in November 2015 which is “in clear violation of the BI Operations Order prohibiting foreigners in engaging in political activities.”

The Australian professor also refuted allegations that he joined a rally in February 2018.

He clarified that he joined a “trip to the forested mountains of the Caraga region in Mindanao to observe the educational activities at a primary school for indigenous Lumad children run by the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur.”

Government and military officials have been claiming that the Lumad schools, including those run by Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, or TRIFPSS, are linked to communist rebels and teach children from indigenous peoples’ communities in Mindanao to rebel against the government.

Volunteers from the Lumad schools as well as IP community groups and rights advocates dispute the government’s claim.

Boehringer stressed that he has been teaching and researching about “the process of education…and the circumstances of indigenous people and their environmental custody of the land” in Australia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

He added that while he has been a “critic” of some government policies including his serving as an “International Election Observer in 2007 and 2010,” his participation should be considered as “an attempt to make a rational contribution within the vibrant national discourse about how democracy can be strengthened, the rule of law protected and social justice ensured.”

Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra said Boehringer can appeal his case but stressed that the de-listing “may not be compelled and is purely an act of grace on the part of the sovereign state.”

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