“His[Van Beersum] blacklisting is more a resounding indictment of the government and its claims to democracy than it is of his zealous yet moral outrage over issues that should make us and our society more fair and human.” — National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Human rights organizations criticized the deportation and blacklisting of Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Van Beersum became prominent when photos of him castigating a policeman for the violent dispersal during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) demonstration came out.
On Tuesday, the 20-year-old Dutch citizen was prevented by immigration agents from boarding his flight back to the Netherlands. He was detained for 30 hours at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for allegedly violating the terms of his tourist visa and “for engaging in partisan political activity.” The BI declared him an “undesirable alien” and had put his name on a “blacklist” of those who would not be allowed to enter the country again.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch called the incident “nothing but harassment.” “The government’s behavior violates the guarantees of free expression and peaceful assembly to which foreign visitors as well as Philippine citizens are entitled to under international law. It undermines Aquino’s claims that his administration respects human rights and values civil liberties,” the group said.
The BI released Van Beersum midnight of Wednesday and rebooked his flight to Amsterdam.
While in Hong Kong before boarding his connecting flight, Van Beersum posted on Facebook: “I got detained for about 30 hours at the airport just so the immigration officials could deport me. This harassment is obviously done to distract the people from the actual problems that the country faces, such as the almost total domination of its economy by foreign capitalists and the complicity of comprador puppets such as Aquino. And let’s not forget the human rights abuses under Aquino’s administration either. So far there have been 142 documented cases of extrajudicial killing and 164 frustrated killing; 16 incidents of enforced disappearance; 76 cases of torture and 293 cases of illegal arrest and detention.”
Van Beersum was one of the more than 200 foreign delegates of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines held in Manila last month.
“While the administration seems to have time to chase foreigners protesting rights violations, it has fallen far short of its rhetoric to end impunity for serious abuses, an important topic that Aquino failed to mention in his State of the Nation address,” the Human Rights Watch further said.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), which provided legal services to Van Beersum during his stay in the Philippines, condemned the blacklisting of its client.
“In this cyberage, blacklisting is obviously a primitive and artificial tool to sweep under the rug ideas, expressions or statements from the outside world that a sitting government would refuse to face or address squarely,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, told Bulatlat.com in a text message. “There is no doubt that our client’s resolve to speak out and continue to be in solidarity with the legitimate struggles and plight of peoples beyond the comfort of his own country should move this government to ponder and cease from being in denial.”
Human Rights Watch deemed the same. “Instead of harassing those who decry the continued violations of human rights, Aquino should welcome them,” the group said.
It called on the Aquino government to revoke the blacklisting of Van Beersum. The group added that the Aquino government should reject the immigration chief’s statement warning foreigners from joining peaceful protest actions.
Olalia said: “His[Van Beersum] blacklisting is more a resounding indictment of the government and its claims to democracy than it is of his zealous yet moral outrage over issues that should make us and our society more fair and human.”
Van Beersum remains unfazed. Despite being blacklisted, he vowed to “firmly support the just struggle of the Filipino people for social and national liberation.” He is expected to arrive in Amsterdam at noon today (Manila time).