By Benjie Lim Vergara
PHILIPPINE immigration authorities have barred from the country an 84-year old human rights advocate from Australia because he allegedly participated in a 2015 rally protesting the senseless killings of Lumads in Mindanao.
Australian national Gill Hale Boehringer arrived Wednesday night at the Ninoy Aquino International airport from China only to find out that his name is blacklisted by the immigration authorities and that he cannot enter the country.
Boehringer said his purpose for coming to Manila is to help his wife process her documents to the Australian Embassy so he can bring her to Australia.
“I want her to be with me…for good. But I also want to live here (Philippines),” Boehringer said, adding that “the law in the Philippines does not want him here.”
Boehringer, who asked to be named, said her husband’s human rights advocacy is the reason why he was prevented from entering the country.
This observation was confirmed when immigration officials told reporters that Boehringer violated the Philippine immigration law by joining local protest rally in Manila on June 2015.
“We don’t really know that. Unfortunately, everything has been done verbally. They (Immigration) don’t give documents whatsoever. If I was in the country, I don’t recall attending that rally and I think I don’t remember it,” Boehringer stressed.
Boehringer, who is a United States born Boehringer, started living in Australia in 1974 after serving the US Navy since 1955. He is a retired Professor of Law and History, Honorary Associate at Macquarie University School of Law.
A frequent traveler to Manila, Boehringer said his interest in indigenous people apparently put him at risk. He added that he was invited on June 2015 to a solidarity mission in Surigao del Sur, to help the indigenous people particularly the Lumads, and other tribes in Mindanao to unite or form a union.
Boehringer said he left on November 2015, and came back on July 2016 when he started wooing his wife. They got married in 2017.
On March 2018, Boehringer’s wife said military men in Surigao del Sur stopped Boehringer and several members of human rights groups who were visiting fur-flung communities in the province to conduct tutoring to Lumads. The military later allowed the human rights group including Boehringer to proceed to their destination after several questions were asked.
On Friday morning, Boehringer was asked by immigration authorities to have a medical check-up. Escorted by Australian embassy staff, Boehringer went to see the NAIA physicians but they did not clear him for travel.
“I’m concerned for my health. I’m in good health. But traveling Manila to Guangzhou and down to Sydney is a longer trip and it takes 15-hour traveling time. It is a long stress,” Boehringer said, adding that he then suggested if he could go to a hospital that could if he is fit to travel.
“My concern is, I don’t want to die. I feel tired and a little bit stress, emotional. Generally speaking, I’m okay. I want to get the right medicine so that I can take it on my flight,” Boehringer explained.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration clarified that the Australian professor was not detained but placed under the custody of the airline.
The BI explained that since the Australian tourist was a subject of an exclusion order last August 8 arising from his inclusion in the BI’s blacklist, he remained at the exclusion room of the NAIA pending his return flight last Friday.
“We wish to dispel the notion that Mr. Boehringer is detained by BI,” Immigration spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval said.
Boehringer, the BI said, has appealed to be admitted to the country, which the BI denied citing his “failure to controvert the assessment of the immigration officer.”
However, the BI reiterated that Boehringer may opt to later file for the lifting of his blacklist, which is subject to the presentation of proof to reverse the order of exclusion.
The BI further said that “it is upon the assessment of the medical team of the airline that Boehringer was allowed to go back to China.”
“The bureau understands and considers his situation and has extended all possible assistance our office can give to him, including medical attention from his chosen physician.”
This is not the first time that the BI goes after a foreigner human rights advocates.
Last month, according to News.Com.AU, the BI ordered the deportation of an Australian nun, Sister Patricia Anne Fox, who had angered President Rodrigo Duterte by joining anti-government rallies. She appealed the expulsion order and remains in the country.
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