The Arroyo government has been keeping a secret political “list” of foreign nationals and some Filipinos residing abroad whom it doesn’t like. These foreign nationals have either joined human rights missions to the Philippines, signed petition letters demanding an end to extrajudicial killings, wrote about the government’s corrupt practices, lobbied their governments to end support to the Arroyo regime, or simply said something critical about the administration.
BY D. L. MONDELO
Vol. VII, No. 29, August 26-September 1, 2007
The Arroyo government has been keeping a secret political “list” of foreign nationals and some Filipinos residing abroad that it doesn’t like. These foreign nationals have either joined human rights missions to the Philippines, signed petition letters demanding an end to extrajudicial killings, wrote about the government’s corrupt practices, lobbied their governments to end support to the Arroyo regime, or simply said something critical about the administration.
This secret “list” goes by several names – “blacklist,” “exclusion order,” “hold order” or simply a “watchlist” – distinctions of which, perhaps only the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) or the Department of Justice (DoJ) knows.
With the recent passage of the Human Security Act (Anti-Terrorism Law), the Arroyo government seems to have used the “watchlist” as ammunition, to harass its foreign-based critics.
Because this list is supposedly secret, the foreign nationals on the list had no idea that they are in the list, and what the consequences are for them to be in the list.
This was exactly what horrified Dr. Annalisa Enrile, a U.S. citizen and assistant clinical professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work and national chair of Gabriela Network (GABNet) USA, when she was barred from boarding her return flight to Los Angeles on Aug. 5 because her name was on the Bureau of Immigration’s “watchlist” and “hold-departure order” list.
She wasn’t told the reason(s) for her inclusion in the list, and why Philippine authorities were preventing her from leaving. She was instead asked to secure clearance from the recently-created Anti-Terrorism Council that includes Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Cesar Garcia of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Dr. Enrile attended the 10th bi-annual Women’s International Solidarity Affair in the Philippines (WISAP) held in Manila last July, which was sponsored by the militant women’s alliance GABRIELA.
Two other U.S. residents, Ninotchka Rosca (a critically acclaimed novelist and known Filipino activist since the Marcos dictatorship) and Judith Mirkinson (a long-time women and human rights activist and researcher on international laws) who also attended the conference, were also in the list. They are both GABNet leaders like Dr. Enrile.
Together, the three have come to be known as the GABNet 3.
The three women were eventually allowed to return to the U.S. after they brought their case to the public, put pressure on their embassy to do something, and asserted their rights to speak out and criticize. Hours before their flight was to leave last Aug.14, their names and those of 500 foreign nationals were ordered removed from the list by the BID.
A copy of the “watchlist” that Bulatlat was able to get hold of showed that the Arroyo government compiled a “blacklist” or “exclusion order” of foreign nationals before and during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Cebu. Its first open victim was American lawyer Brian Campbell who was refused entry into the Philippines to attend the ASEAN counter-summit activities upon arriving at the Ninoy Aquino international airport. Campbell was among the foreign participants to a human rights fact-finding mission to look into the extrajudicial killings.
Between November 2006 until the August 5, barring of Dr. Enrile, there were already several other unreported incidents whereby some of those in the “watchlist” who came to the Philippines were subjected to harassment at the immigration counters of the Ninoy Aquino international airport.