By Gerry Albert Corpuz
Can a foreigner be barred for entering the Philippines because of his or her previous participation in a protest action here? The answer is yes, going by the experience of a Bangladeshi peasant leader who was deported last March 30 even if his travel papers were in order.
Three international groups asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate Philippine immigration officials for the “extremely undemocratic” deportation of a Bangladeshi peasant activist who was barred from entering the country last March 30.
The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), the Asia-Pacific Research Network (APRN) and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) will file a petition in the CHR to look into the violations committed by local immigration officials in denying the entry of Badrul Alam, chairperson of Bangladesh Krishok Federation, to the Philippines to attend a meeting of Asian agricultural producers.
Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominee and social activist Dr. Irene Fernandez of Malaysia said that the Philippine government violated the fundamental rights of Alam like the right to association and freedom of assembly, saying the APC would also bring the current wave of deportation of peasant activists before the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights. “Badrul is not a terrorist or a convicted criminal. He is an internationally known peasant activist highly regarded in the international community for his unwavering advocacy of peasant rights.”
Protest in Nepal, India
For his part, Prem Dangal of Nepal and APC chairperson said that the Philippine consulate in Dhaka, Bangladesh approved Alam’s visa, proving that his entry to the country is legal, moral and official and he did not apply as tourist, contrary to claims of immigration officials here.
Ferdinand Sampol, NAIA immigration officer, said that Alam was deported because he was on the immigration blacklist for joining an October 2005 peasant rally in Recto, Manila. He stressed that the Bangladeshi peasant activist violated one of the conditions of his stay in the country last year.
However, Dangal said that Alam was on an official visit last year because he applied for a visa and was approved by the Philippine consulate in Dhaka. He said that the Bangladeshi peasant leader also went through the same rigorous process when he traveled to the country to join an international meeting on food sovereignty sponsored by APRN scheduled from March 30 to April 3, 2006.
“This is over and above political harassment. This is political discrimination and repression rolled into one and executed by the very hostile administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We condemn this act to the highest order,” Dangal said.
Dangal said that his group in Nepal, the All Nepal Peasant Association (ANPA), will hold a rally on April 1 in Katmandu, Nepal to condemn Alam’s deportation. He expects more than 5,000 farmers to participate. Another protest will be held in India, according to Fatima Burnad, leader of all peasant women group India. She said that mass actions will also be held Dhaka by farmers to protest the deportation of Alam.