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BI deports Fil-Swiss activist based on undisclosed intel report


James Relativo – Philstar.com

December 9, 2023 | 7:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration cited an undisclosed intelligence report as the basis for the deportation of Anakbayan Switzerland chairperson Edna Becher upon her recent arrival in the Philippines.

Becher, a Filipina-Swiss activist, was earlier barred from entering the country after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Terminal 3. Her camp mentioned that she returned home to celebrate the holidays with family and engage with local communities.

“Subject was excluded for being blacklisted in the Philippines since 2021,” said Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval to Philstar.com on Saturday.

“She was the subject of a government intelligence report regarding activities that may be considered as undesirable.”

When asked, Sandoval said that Becher was not illegally detained but was merely “excluded.”

According to Sandoval, the process of exclusion meant that Edna was barred from entering the country and was directed to board the next available flight back to her country of origin by the airline.

Asked if Becher violated any laws, the Immigration official failed to give a clear-cut answer. 

“We cannot comment on the contents of the government intelligence report, but the act of exclusion is part of the mandate of the Bureau of Immigration in ensuring that foreign nationals who have derogatory records are unable to enter the country,” the BI official said.

A case of political persecution?

Karapatan and Anakbayan earlier criticized the Immigration’s move as a form of political persecution, stating that Becher didn’t do anything illegal both in Switzerland and the Philippines.

“These acts also violate Becher’s freedom of association and freedom of movement,” said Karapatan on Friday.

Meanwhile, the progressive youth group Anakbayan expressed concerns, stating that the blacklisting sets a risky precedent and criminalizes dissent.

Becher’s group is a legal activist formation that organizes the youth sector in the Philippines and abroad. It has also long been red-tagged by the government as a “front organization” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), even if the group is unarmed.

She is known for attending protests in Switzerland in relation to the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines and during the visit of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for the World Economic Forum.

Other progressives have been forced to be deported to their home countries due to “partisan political activities” like Australian missionary Patricia Fox (2018), Australian lawyer Gill Boehringer (2018), Giacomo Filibeck (2018), Thomas Van Beersum (2013), etc. In contrast to Becher, the others lacked any Filipino lineage.

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