MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Independent think-tank IBON Foundation expressed disappointment over the lack of action of the Philippine government after the Seoul government blacklisted and deported eight members of Filipino civil society groups in South Korea.
Malacañang has issued a statement saying it respects the decision of the South Korean government to refuse the entry of Filipinos, but the group says that amid a clearly discriminatory treatment, the Philippine government’s weak response is a cause for concern. It also asks if it was the Philippine government that recommended the blacklist, considering that only Filipino activists were barred from entering Korea.
IBON researchers Sonny Africa and Paul Quintos together with six other Filipinos were denied entry to South Korea without any explanation from Seoul immigration officials. The Filipino delegates were to take part in the G20 Seoul International People’s Conference gathering civil society groups in a parallel conference to the G20 summit. The conference will discuss alternatives to the G20’s response to the global crisis of bailouts and added taxes, which have been criticized as biased to corporations and only further burdening poor people worldwide.
Quintos was detained for 24 hours at the Incheon Airport and deported last Saturday, even as this was his third visit this year and experienced no problems traveling to Seoul previously. Africa, meanwhile, was the latest Filipino denied entry and forced to take the same flight back to Manila early Monday morning. Other Filipino activists deported were Kilusang Mayo Uno secretary-general Roger Soluta, poet Jess Santiago and five others.
The parallel conference was organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) and other Korean civil society organizations. Other delegates from South Asia and Africa who were invited by the same organizers were allowed entry to Seoul.
According to Quintos, “We believe that instead of banning activists and excluding civil society voices from the Philippines from being heard in Korea, the Seoul government officials should listen to the parallel people’s conference. This way they would probably learn alternative ways to deal with the crisis from civil society, academics and progressive leaders,” he added.
Africa, meanwhile, said that the Philippine government does not seem to see to value the Filipino participation in these important G20-related activities. “Korean civil society groups saw the importance of this participation and so it is more ironic that our government doesn’t,” he added. He also noted that G20 meetings have a record of suppressing civil society participation, citing the July G20 summit in Toronto, Canada where over 900 people were arrested during demonstrations.
IBON challenges Malacañang to demand an official explanation from the South Korean government and denounce the unjust deportation of the Filipino delegates. “The Philippine government should encourage freedom of expression and condemn attacks against this. The lack of real action makes us concerned that it condones or may even be complicit to such harsh security measures.”