02/18/2021, 16.40
PHILIPPINES
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Dutch missionary to be expelled

Otto Rudolf De Vries has been helping workers in Manila since 1991. Accused of taking part in protests organised by terrorist groups, he must leave the country within 30 days. His expulsion falls under Duterte's disputed anti-terrorism law.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The Philippine government has cancelled the permanent resident visa of a Dutch lay missionary, ordering him to leave the country within 30 days.

Otto Rudolf De Vries, a 62-year-old Church worker from the Diocese of Rotterdam (Netherlands) arrived in the Philippines in 1991 to work as a lay missionary in Prelature of Infanta, Infanta (Quezon province), to defend workers' rights.

He is accused of involvement in “illegal political activities”, in particular taking part in protests led by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) and the Kilusang Mayo Uno labor center (May 1st Movement), two organisations described in the expulsion order as having links with the communist underground movement.

The Dutch missionary, who says that he was not notified of the order, found out only earlier this month when he went to renew his immigration visa.

The order cancelling the missionary’s permanent residence is dated 27 November but refers to an intelligence report that dates back almost a year.

“I was not notified of any proceedings and was not able to refute the malicious allegations of [the intelligence agency],” he said.

For the past 20 years, De Vries has been staying in an urban poor community in Pasig, a city within the Metro Manila area. He works as a volunteer researcher for EILER, an organisation dedicated to labour issues, especially child labour.

Father Eric Adoviso, head of the Ministry for Labor Concerns of the Archdiocese of Manila, has urged the government to reconsider its decision in light of De Vries’ contribution to the understanding of the plight of workers.

The lay missionary’s story should be seen against the backdrop of suspicion towards social activists generated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s new anti-terrorism law, a source told AsiaNews. Under the new legislation, it easier to charge any dissenting voice with terrorism.

De Vries’s situation is similar to that of Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian missionary. The superior of the Religious of Our Lady of Zion too was forced to leave the Philippines in late 2018 after 27 years in the country. Like the Dutch missionary, she was charged with taking part in protests; in her case, in support of farmers and tribal communities in Mindanao.

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