Diplomatic protest pushed vs South Korea

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Sunday, November 7, 2010


MANILA -- A militant lawmaker urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to issue a diplomatic protest against South Korea for disallowing six Filipino activists to attend the G-20 Global Economic Summit in Seoul.

DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya said Sunday that the agency will study and give due consideration to the suggestion made by Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello.

Bello, in a statement issued Sunday, urged Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to file a protest over what he called "unwarranted force" used by South Korean authorities against the six Filipinos.

Bello is the co-founder of the non-government organization Focus on the Global South, whose former colleague Joseph Puruganan was one of those who were detained and subsequently deported to the Philippines.

The five other Filipinos who were supposedly "blacklisted" by the South Korean government and thus sent home are Josua Fred Mata, secretary-general of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL); Rogelio Soluta, secretary-general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU); Jesus Manuel Santiago, a progressive artist/singer; Paul Quintos of research group Ibon Foundation; and Maria Lorena Macabuag of Migrant Forum Asia.

"We asked for a written explanation why we are blacklisted. I think they are in a hurry to send us back home but since we asked for written explanation, they are delaying things," said Macabuag, adding that activists from India, Indonesia and Nigeria were allowed to enter South Korea.

Quintos had been reportedly detained since Friday while the rest arrived at Incheon International Airport in Seoul at 5:10 p.m. Saturday via Korean Air flight 622.

After their brief detention, the Filipinos were forced to board the 9:30 p.m. Saturday flight back to Manila, where they arrived early Sunday.

The group is supposed to attend a "Peoples Collective Action" in connection to the semi-annual meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the world's top 20 major economies.

South Korea, the fourth biggest economy in Asia, is the summit's chair. The host country earlier disallowed demonstrations within the two-kilometer radius of the sprawling Convention Exhibition Center.

Condemnations

Bello said the activists hold the necessary documents, including visas, to gain entry to South Korea, condemning the detention of the six Filipinos at the immigration office without clear reason.

"These activists came to South Korea with the intention of forwarding the real interest of the people from the developing world, interests that are often neglected in closed-door negotiations of technocrats in the G20," he said.

Malaya, however, said the Philippine embassy in Seoul has not received advanced information "on any Filipino attending the G20 Summit on November 11-12 or any other events in Seoul."

Aside from Bello, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions also expressed its "deep disgust and anger" over their government's crackdown on political dissenters.

"The base and irrational actions of the Lee Myung-bak government are greatly tarnishing the image of the Koreans in Asia and in the entire international community," the group said.

"To be boasting of South Korea's position as an international leader and at the same time trampling on the human rights of the people from developing countries is self-contradictory and completely deceitful," it added.

South Korea's call

Meantime, a senior government official defended South Korea's actions, saying it is the authorities' prerogative to allow or bar the entry of any foreigner.

"The rule is the same whether in Korea, the Philippines or any other country. We may or we may not have acted the way Korea did, but we have to respect their prerogative and laws," the source, who asked not to be named, said.

But instead of being cowed, Jean Enriquez of the World March for Women said she and two others will fly to South Korea to join other progressive organizations in protesting the "anti-people" and "anti-poor" policies of developed countries.

Joining her are Malou Tabios-Nuera of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and Val Vibal of the Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA or Union of Agricultural Workers). Tabios said APL youth representative Joana Bernice Coronacion is already in South Korea as of this posting Sunday.

"Even if we will be barred entry as well, various organizations have already prepared demonstrations across the globe to protest the G20 meeting," said Enriquez in a media briefing.

Some organizations are also set to storm the Korean embassy in Taguig City, Monday, to demand an explanation and apology for the incident. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Local news

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