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Arrest of another foreigner who attended Sona rally draws flak

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INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Immigration police arrested a Canadian student at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Friday night allegedly for participating in the protest rally during President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address before Congress last July.

Lawyers of Kim Chatillon-Meunier, 24, said she was a student intern here. They threatened to take the Philippines to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for its harassment of foreigners expressing support for human rights.

According to Bureau of Immigration officials, Meunier was on the agency’s watchlist. She was arrested at Naia Terminal 3 while waiting for her 7:10 p.m. flight to Hong Kong. She was put in a taxi and brought to the BI jail in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Meunier’s lawyers, Edre Olalia and Julian Oliva from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), rushed to the BI jail to meet with her. They stopped immigration officials from searching the student’s luggage without a warrant.

“Kim is very traumatized because she was alone when arrested. She was brought to the BI jail in a taxi by her escorts and was detained along with eight other foreigners. She was sobbing when we talked to her,” Olalia told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

The human rights group Karapatan, which alerted the media to Meunier’s detention, said the student did not even join the anti-Sona march conducted by militant groups, adding that “she arrived later at the rally site and only observed the rally program.”

A regular student at the Université de Montreal in Quebec, Meunier was selected by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to go into an internship program in the Philippines called Students for Development. The program is sponsored and financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), one of the biggest social program sponsors in the Philippines.

While in the Philippines, she attended the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines in July. She also joined the International Solidarity and Humanitarian Mission in Quezon province, along with other foreign participants, shortly before the conference. She was also involved in the research and documentation of the reproductive health conditions of women in Tondo, Manila.

“She did not march or speak. She is not a criminal. She is just a quiet simple student fulfilling her university requirements,” Olalia said.

The lawyer said Meunier had gotten in touch with her family and the Canadian Embassy. He said the student had just finished her internship and was flying to Hong Kong to join a friend and rest for a few days before flying back to Montreal.

Meunier was the second foreign activist held for allegedly participating in the anti-Sona rallies. A Dutchman, Thomas van Beersum, was also waiting for his flight at Naia on Aug. 6 when he was detained by immigration agents only to be deported and blacklisted.

The NUPL in a statement condemned Meunier’s detention, saying that “even innocuous behavior is now being penalized because of the overzealous and repressive efforts to stifle the legitimate exercise of rights. The dubious reason for stopping her speaks volumes of how the government regards its own Constitution and laws on basic rights. It once again reflects the utter disregard of pertinent international laws and conventions.”

“Until the government respects the rights of foreigners who do not surrender their inherent rights upon entry to this country, we cannot even claim to have really matured into a truly democratic state worthy of the respect of the international community of nations. Her unjustified incarceration is even more revolting in light of the free and unhampered egress of some suspected criminals and plunderers who are laughing all the way past porous immigration borders,” the lawyers group said.

Karapatan called on the BI to release Meunier and let her go home.

“[We] condemn this blatant harassment and violation of the rights of Meunier. Like what the BI and the Aquino administration did to Van Beersum, they are violating her fundamental right to free expression and her right to study and support human rights issues in the Philippines,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

The NUPL said it would join international organizations in filing a case in the United Nations Human Rights Committee to question the detention of foreigners.

Karapatan, for its part, demanded that the BI scrap all watchlists and blacklists “as these are tools for harassment and the suppression of fundamental rights.”

“The authorities must let her go and allow her to go home to her family. It is incumbent on the government to tell this traumatized young lady student who chose to come here whether indeed it is more fun in the Philippines,” the NUPL said.


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  • WestSydneyGiants

    I am from Australia. All I can say is, anyone cannot just come to any country to do whatever they want, even if the host country has a democratic government. You are bounded by the conditions of your visa. Your visa is your contract. So if you are on a tourist or student visa definitely you are bounded by its conditions.

    Even our Senator Nick Xenophon was deported lately by Malaysia (a democratic country) because Mr. Senator joined a local politics issue.

    Oh well, maybe the rule of thumb of the world is: do your protest in the country where you pay your tax.

    • topolcats

      Clearly you have never been to Malaysia?……if it was democratic Anwar would be PM by Now!
      Senator Xenophon did Not hold a student visa, likely he held a diplomatic passport so its a different relationship to the case mentioned above.

      He did blatantly interfere in the highest level and was deported…not surprising….do you think it would not happen in the Philippines is Xenaphon starting talking turd about Aquino?

      Labor (then) would never help an independent who has been a pain in the bum at the cross benches for 3 years at the cost of having bad relations with Malaysia…the question is why did the Australian government at the time do more?

      • WestSydneyGiants

        I have been to Malaysia MANY TIMES. I can’t help you if you if you interpret otherwise. If you can’t be happy on any country on earth go to Mars!

      • porener

        big deal…you been to malaysia man times…so f@cking what a$$wipe?

      • WestSydneyGiants

        You f#cking lowlife activist, the world will not change for you. Go to f#cking Mars if you’re not happy on earth! Fck ur @ss!

      • porener

        don’t expect the world to change for me u sad f@ck. not an activist. You clearly have anger issues and are probably a control freak. maybe you beat your wife also…if you have one….hahahahahahaha

    • porener

      Wrong! and I’m Aussie. You do have the right to protest, march or whatever even as a tourist in Australia. Indian students had a riot in Sydney. There is no law against foreigners protesting or attending protests. They will only be in trouble if they break a law…such as destruction of property, ignoring a lawful order of a police officer. Even then deportation is unlikely.

      • WestSydneyGiants

        Moron! From your own word you said “… be in trouble if they BREAK THE LAW”. If you think that ILLEGAL protest is not “breaking the law” then I cannot help you with that. Now if you say how can that protest be illegal, don’t ask me ask the police!!! F I

      • porener

        A moron is a old psychological classification of a low IQ. I’m not. You clearly are, as you resort to that sh!t as your first response. At what point is someone an observer at a protest or a participant? My point that you obviously choose to ignore is that protest in Aus is allowed even by tourists. It is only when they break a law that is applicable to the indigent population that they will charged. There is no separate law targeting foreigners as excluded from protest. People like you are the morons…

      • WestSydneyGiants

        OMG what a dickhead moron. OMG OMG. Go f#ck urself.

      • porener

        hahahaha….i can’t stop laughing at you…you have a problem…really…hahahahaha

  • ManilaMan

    Canadian, eh? Let’s say i go over to Canada and participate in Inuit or Metis assemblies, reside among pro-independence native amerindian militants in Nunavut. As a foreigner, do you think i can get out of Canada without being stopped and interrogated by immigration officials, the royal mounties at least? Don’t come here lecturing us on human rights when you are equally guilty of wiping these indians out and forcing them into reserves. These commie militants and their New People’s Army have terrorized countless rural areas and villages through extortion and violence, engaging our police forces in guerilla warfare. When our men and women in the military die defending the villages from these forces, it is fair? But when they’re killed in battle which they themselves have created, you call it human rights abuse? Weird, eh?

    • niceguy60

      I thought this lady is a student. Did she participated with the NPAs?

      • ManilaMan

        Unless you think Quezon province is now an international convention venue, what do you think people go down (or should i say up?) there for?

      • niceguy60

        Maybe it’s not. But what’s wrong with going there? Perhaps these students are doing research. Heck I don’t even care if they interview the NPAs or they embed with them to learn more for their study materials. Also i one would like to know what these NPA people are thinking. From the perspective of other culture. On the same level I want our own students be able to study other culture. Perhaps our journalist or students be sent somewhere else to learn other culture. I want our youth to be open minded. Open to other culture. Study best practice of governing from successful countries of the world. So they would not be CORRUPT when it’s their turn to run the country.

      • ManilaMan

        Plenty of legit rural cooperatives and organizations to study philippine society and learn from. A research on Mindanao for example and the plight of Moro Filipinos need not have to involve sleeping with the Abu Sayyaf. There are local imams and the office of muslim affairs to help in your discovery of moro society.

    • panhase

      You can go there and of course you can participate in Inuit or whatever assemblies. And how do you know she is a commie? And even if she is, would that be against the law? What law did she break, can you please specify?

      • oabesamis09

        foreigners are not allowed to join rallies no matter what…

      • ManilaMan

        They are, as long as they dont harm citizens or properties, or incite rebellion or anarchy. Wrong clique, my Canadian friend.

      • ManilaMan

        I can participate in the burning of the maple leaf flag with the Inuits. But am i off the hook for doing such? Im not saying she broke any law, but detentions do happen and governments do search and investigate anyone that ever comes ashore. Got held up in Vancouver airport once for suspicion that i was carrying drugs (embarassing experience i tell you) But having found none, i just smiled and told the officer that detained me for some 20 mins with the baggage search and all, “tough luck.” :) And one time at the Narita airport, i was held for carrying a philippine passport. I think it has to do with their crackdown on illlegal workers from PHL but dang, the whole 15 mins of waiting pisd me off.

      • panhase

        Well, that was 20 minutes in Canada and 15 in Narita and not brought to a jail like this young lady. And what was her offense? Watching a rally, that´s already illegal in this country? Are we a police state?

      • ManilaMan

        A rally and a side trip to the mountains of Quezon province, that’s what she did. Now tell me, what did she do in the mountains of Taliban? You know what, just smoke your commie pipe, im not having anymore discussion with a militant.

      • mfdo

        what law she broke ? so dense .. she is a Foreigner and she got involved in Philippines politics, nuff said,

      • panhase

        She is a foreigner and that´s enough? Some hospitality your displaying.

      • mfdo

        hospitality shouldn’t extend meekly allowing outsiders to ‘observe’ then ‘comment’ then ‘dictate’ .. atleast that’s how it goes in the rest of the world, except of course, in FUN PHILIPPINES, where all and sundry can be done and get away with ..

  • Punyëtero»Ka

    Can you comprehend? The more you wriggle, the deeper the hook sinks! LOL!!

  • josefe38

    WHAT PHILIPPINE LAWS THIS LADY VIOLATED WHICH WARRANT HER ARREST??????? WHY BI RELEASED THIS LADY WITHOUT ANY CASE FILED, IF EVER SHE VIOLATED OR HAVING INFRACTION WITH ANY PHILIPPINE LAWS??

    • ManilaMan

      The foreigner flew to the US to mingle with US Islamic societies founded by 9/11 radical extremists. That association alone can put anyone in FBI detention.

      • porener

        That’s association with terrorist links. Not quite the same.

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        It’s not important for a cat to be black or white as long as it catches rats!

      • porener

        absolutely improper analogy. waste of time.bye

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Again, good riddance, Herr Himmler!

      • ManilaMan

        Yup. NPA–New People’s Army. CPP–Communist Party. A terrorist group included in the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Wanted by DND/NBI.

      • porener

        So the people she was with at the rally were from recognized terrorist groups? If so, why weren’t they arrested at the rally and why was she arrested only now?

      • ManilaMan

        Something to do with the Marcos stigma. If these enemies of the state were arrested right in those rallies, people will return to fear like in the Marcos era and the government does not want that. But they remain enemies of the state, only there is an effort now to integrate them into society and political process. And like i said, the Bureau of Immigration’s business is the Bureau of Immigration’s business. She wasn’t arrested, only detained for questioning. It happens when a foreigner does more than what her visa allows her to. Several foreigners in the US have been detained for visiting this particular mosque for example.

      • porener

        okay….fair enough

      • indiosbravos2002

        CPP is a terrorist group.

    • mfdo

      no country allows foreigners to engage in local politics, rallies or anything of that form. Why should she be exempted ? because she is Canadian ? :D

      • panhase

        What you are saying is not true. Over here any foreigner, not matter if visitor, student or whatever can join as many rallies as he or she likes. And of course they also engage in local politics. What should be the problem? Will the state brake down because a foreigner is there?

      • ManilaMan

        Even if that rally takes place in London in support of the Irish Republican Army of Belfast? I dont think so. You see this is not just any rally. If it was about abortion, reproductive health, gay rights or illegal poaching/environmental cause then ive sure seen foreigners taking part without being harrased by police.

        But this is rebellion in the company of militants belonging to a communist terrorist organization. Even if she was innocent, she mixed with the wrong people and that got her into detention to be questioned. You don’t want to be seen among jihadists in the US, cos that alone could put anyone in FBI detention.

      • panhase

        What rebellion are you talking about? Did yiu miss something in the whole discussion?

  • Yobhtron

    Jail and deport all leftist foreigners sponsored by the traitor leftist groups. Mga salot kayong lahat sa lipunan. Dapat ideport din ng gobyerno ang lahat ng kumunista sa bayan ng sa ganun matikman nila ang sinasabi nilang violation of human rights sa kanilang motherland China.

  • kevinmcn

    Even a visitor to this country should be afforded the same fundamental rights as a National. They should be protected by the Constitution, including Freedom of Speech. But by voicing agreement with her treatment, don’t you think that will erode the rights of all Philippine Nationals, if you accept her treatment how long until anyone voicing their opinion that does not fall in line with the ruling party will result in imprisonment? I am not left wing I would say I am Right Wing, I am not worried about a couple hundred Left Wing or anyone else expressing their opinion. But i am worried about my rights & I see this episode as a threat to mine.

    • ManilaMan

      Even us Filipino citizens caught participating in rebel camps in the boondocks face the possibility of being detained. So why should the law exempt anyone, especially foreigners whose visa specifically tells them what they can and cannot do whilst in the country. A law abiding citizen need not worry, and should even support our government in eliminating these radicals that pose a threat to our own peace and security.

      • kevinmcn

        Are you talking about radicals armed with thought or guns? Anyone Right or Left who threatens the Peace & Security of the Country should be dealt with severely, but expressing one’s opinion should e a right.

        I have tried to find where it says that a person in the Philippines on a Visitor Visa can not attend or participate in any political events, but i can not find any info.Could someone please let me know the link.

      • ManilaMan

        Radicals armed with thought = CPP
        Radicals armed with guns = NPA

        I was trying to provide the link to the US State Department’s website identifying the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization, but looks like its not allowed here. Anyway, you can just do google search.

        Rallying in itself is not illegal. Doing it alongside terrorist organizations, and engaging in mountain activities in Quezon province IS.

      • mfdo

        where does it say ? err .. go to Malaysia, and say you support x or y or z organisation .. you will be committed to a minimum of 1 year for breaking the rules of your tourist visa … and somewhere in the Tourist visa rules, it is stated very clearly in black and white – same for Philippines. Get a life, than happily cheer foreigners taking up our problems – they should keep to their own country if they want to express their opinion .. oh, in Singapore, I read it is 30 days or more jail, if you engage in local political speech and I am sure it is NOT Stated in the Visa form .. so ??

    • mfdo

      you are a simpleton. No country allows any foreigner to interfere in local affairs, and most countries will throw you into jail and throw the key away .. why exempt for Philippines ? You should worry if a local gets arrested, and be happy when the Law enforcers are doing their job – keeping foreigners away from local politics. Get real my friend ..

      • porener

        depends on definition of interfere with local politics. It sends a message of weakness not strength to some countries that a student attending (peacefully) a rally can/will be arrested simply for being there and not committing another crime. It says we fear any outside observation or comment….not…we are strong because it’s our business and our business only. Assad could say the same thing!

  • Diepor

    I wouldnt recommend students to come here. Its normal for students to be political active, have strong opinions and to join a protest rally ot two. If that makes you monitored and arrested by the goverment it means we are living in a police state and not a free state. I shoudnt have wrote this but i guess I am allready on the watchlist.

    And then they take taxi to the jail, dont they even have cars.

    • ManilaMan

      Yes i suggest foreign students travel instead to UK or the US if they want top english education, as long as they don’t participate in any of the Occupy London or Occupy New York movements or other radical anti-government prostests in their host countries, they should be fine. Otherwise, they’d end up the same way as they did in PHL.

      • Diepor

        “She did not march or speak. She is not a criminal. She is just a quiet simple student fulfilling her university requirements

      • ManilaMan

        Who says you’d have to be a criminal to be detained or interrogated? Have you flown out of the country for example and arrived at your destination abroad, when an immigration official does his search and interview you? Same when you depart the country on your return back home. If an officer sees that you have extended your allowed stay, you are detained. If the officer sees that there are reasons to doubt your purpose of travel, you are interrogated. If the officer receives a tip that you have participated in rebellious activities with a terrorist group like CPP-NPA or Al Qaeda, of course it is their duty to question you. Moral lesson: stick to your declared purpose of travel and don’t do anything stupid that could draw police attention towards you. Thats the rule of thumb for foreigners wherever they end up in the world–at least from my own observations as a traveler.

      • Diepor

        From were do you get the participated in rebellious activities with a terrorist group like CPP-NPA or Al Qaeda. Is that the case here?

        I have studied in Norway and participated in demonstations against the Norwegian state for allowing whaling. Nothing happened and I still have a visa.

        Students should protest and belive in a better world.

      • ManilaMan

        1. Check out the US State Dept’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. CPP-NPA is included.
        2. Anti-whaling is not considered rebellion or treason.
        3. CPP-NPA espouses the overthrow of the democratic government and its replacement by a communist regime.
        4. Our government is currently engaged in eliminating these insurgents, specifically their New People’s Army that have waged a protracted campaign to seize state power by terrorizing the rural areas.

      • Diepor

        Ok, one more time. She has not supported any terrorist group. She did not march or speak only observed and looked at a rally against SONA.
        She attended the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines in July. She has also joined the International Solidarity and Humanitarian Mission in Quezon province and been involved in the research and documentation of the reproductive health conditions of women in Tondo, Manila.

        If that the kind of person we want to be arrested in this country ?

      • ManilaMan

        She may not have supported, but she sure has participated. Humanitarian Mission in Quezon province? Maybe if it was humanitarian mission in Zamboanga or any other warzone in Mindanao then it would have been legit. Quezon was neither devastated by calamities for it to be a center of a humanitarian mission. But of course, rebels up in their mountains may require humanitarian aid for the damage to themselves which they themselves have created. If that’s not supporting terrorists, then i dont know what is.

      • kevinmcn

        Maybe she was here to study Tagalog, seeing as she was from Canada she probably speaks passable English & doesn’t need to to go to the UK or US.
        It doesn’t say anywhere in the article that she attended any subversive meetings while in the Philippines, to be fair if any Congressman might have had the chance to sponsor one of those events at a 10% to 90% split in favor of the Congressman, they would have sponsored the event through their PORK.
        There is a big difference between freedom of expression & what went on here. Just as there is a big difference between Occupy London or New York & what went on here.

      • ManilaMan

        She did participate in a “mission” in Quezon, that mountainous province south of Manila considered a hotbed of NPA rebels. I dont know what any tourist or foreigner would be the going there for, and what mission there is to be found in those mountains. Cos if you think of mountains or hiking, Quezon is not really in the top 100 places for tourists to go, there’s Baguio.. Or Tagaytay.

        And the woman is Quebecker. I suppose her first language is French.



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