Karapatan hits PH immigration blacklisting of Canadian human rights activist

Karapatan decries the decision of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) placing Canadian citizen and human rights activist Emile Kinley-Gauthier’s name on the blacklist of the Bureau of Immigration.

Kinley-Gauthier was a participant in the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines on 18-21 July 2013. The conference was organized by the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), Karapatan and the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace (EcuVoice).

After the said conference, Kinley-Gauthier attended the 2013 protest on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of former President Benigno Aquino Jr. to observe the program and listen to the speakers.

On August 1, 2013, he left the Philippines without issue. Three years later, in July 2016, he learned that his name was included in a deportation case for allegedly violating the terms and conditions of his stay by “actively participating” in a protest rally with militant groups during the 2013 SONA protest and that his presence in the Philippines poses risks to public interest.

The charge sheet, which was issued 3 September 2013, included Kinley-Gauthier’s name on the Watchlist Order under CA 613, Section 37 (a) (7) or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 and Act 2711 or the Revised Administrative Code.

On 29 June 2017, the Board of Special Inquiry issued a decision dimissing the case for being moot as the charge sheet for his deportation was issued long after Kinley-Gauthier left the country. The Board ordered the deletion of his name from the Bureau’s watchlist, but inexplicably ordered the inclusion of his name on the BI’s blacklist.

Kinley-Gauthier filed a motion for reconsideration on 25 October 2017 to contest the resolution and to challenge the inclusion of his name on the blacklist. In his motion for reconsideration, he asserted that he did not “actively participate” in the 2013 SONA protest, and was in fact under close supervision of the ICHRP secretariat. He stayed to observe and watch the program for about 30 minutes and then left. He did not hold any protest material or joined in any mock serenading or chanting.

“Kinley-Gauthier has never been charged in any court for any crime and he was merely observing the 2013 SONA protest. How can he pose a risk to public interest? What then is the basis of the Bureau of Immigration to include Gauthier’s name on the blacklist after it dismissed the charges held against him?” said Atty. Maria Sol Taule, Karapatan’s Legal Counsel and Kinley-Gauthier’s lawyer.

The resolution of the Board of Special Inquiry also mentioned Operations Order No. SBM-2015-025 entitled “Prohibition on Foreign Tourists in Engaging in Political Activities in the Philippines,” issued by the Bureau of Immigration, subjecting its violators to deportation proceedings.

“It must be noted that Operations Order SBM-2015-025 was issued by the BI on 3 July 2015 and Kinley-Gauthier was implicated in the deportation case in July 2013. Said Operations order has thus been retroactively applied to Kinley-Gauthier’s case, which happened two years after the operations order was issued. This is a blatant violaton of the general rule of non-applicability of retroactive laws against any person,” added Taule.

In February 2018, five foreign members of an international solidarity mission were also held by the Bureau of Immigration in General Santos City. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and the Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties spearheaded the said mission to investigate reports of human rights violations in Mindanao linked to the implementation of martial law and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

“The resolution of the BI sets a dangerous precedent. It is very convenient for the government to arbitrarily blacklist all foreigners who express solidarity and stand with the struggles of the Filipino people whom they consider as risks or threats to public interest. The only real threat to the security of the Philippines is the fascist government that has continuously violated the people’s civil and political rights,” concluded Taule.#