IMMIGRATION officials on Sunday, April 15, denied entry to a European politician critical of the administration's war on drugs, a move that Malacañang defended as an exercise of sovereignty.

A day after the reported detention and deportation of Party of European Socialists (PES) deputy secretary-general Giacamo Filibeck surfaced, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the Philippines, as a sovereign nation, has the jurisdiction to ban any foreign nationals "if we do not want them in our territory."

"There is no rule under international law that will compel us to admit anyone whom we do not want to admit in our territory. That's the exercise of sovereignty," Roque told Palace reporters.

"We are not obliged to allow anyone into our territory, if we do not want them in our territory. Unfortunately, the socialist leader was one of those (whom) we determine as a person we don't want to be in our territory," he added.

Filibeck, who is critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics crackdown, was reportedly stopped at the immigration counter and immediately deported upon his arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Sunday, April 15, for allegedly participating in "illegal political activities."

The party official traveled to Cebu to attend the two-day Akbayan Party-list Congress. Akbayan is a sister party of the PES, which is composed of socialist, social democratic, labor and democratic parties from all over Europe and Norway

The PES, in a statement posted on its website, protested "in the strongest possible terms the unjustified detention and deportation today (Sunday) of one of its senior representatives by the government of the Philippines."

The PES said it has informed the office of Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign and security policy, of the incident.

"It is completely unacceptable that a PES political representative, traveling to take up an invitation to attend Akbayan’s party congress as guest of honor, should be treated as a criminal on the orders of the government and forcibly deported from the country," PES president Sergei Stanishev said in the same statement.

"I understand from our colleagues in the Philippines that this is the first time a foreign national has been expelled from the country for political reasons. The sinister motive behind this outrageous act is clear: our political family is on the front line in the fight to defend human rights in the Philippines," he added.

Filibeck was part of the international human rights mission that visited the country in October 2017. Together with representatives of members of progressive European parties, he denounced the killings linked to the drug war and publicly called for an investigation into the crackdown.

"Clearly, the President (Duterte) intends to silence criticism of his deadly policies both at home and abroad. As a united political family, we refuse to be silenced. We will continue to express our solidarity with the democratic opposition to Mr Duterte’s increasingly authoritarian rule in the Philippines," the party official said.

Akbayan on Sunday condemned "in strongest terms" the move to prevent Filibeck from entering Philippine territory.

"Are we in a dictatorship? The deportation of Filibeck is a deplorable act of silencing the strong voices for human rights," the local party-list said.

"Duterte detained and deported Filibeck because he is scared of human rights defenders. He is hiding something about the killings in the Philippines. This is a clear sign that Duterte will block all efforts to bring justice to Filipino victims of the killings," Akbayan added. (SunStar Philippines)