September 14, 2013
Dear friends and colleagues,
Greetings of peace!
Kim Chatillon-Meunier, a 24-year old Canadian student, is currently being detained by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials at the BI detention center in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig, Philippines. According to immigration officials, Kim is placed in a “watchlist” and is being held for allegedly participating in the SONA rally. BI OIC Commissioner Siegfred Mison was reported to have ordered her detention. Kim was about to take her flight at 7:10pm on September 13 for Hongkong, when she was accosted by BI officers and was brought to the abovementioned detention facility.
Kim was primarily in the Philippines for her internship requirement at the Université de Montreal, Canada where she is a regular student. She 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’ sponsored and financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Canada. While in the Philippines, she was able to attend the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRPP) 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. Contrary to BI’s allegations, Kim was not able to join the march of the People’s SONA but, later arrived at the rally site in time to observe the rally program.
At the detention center, BI agents attempted to search Kim’s bags but were prevented when a Karapatan staff and NUPL lawyer Edre Olalia intervened and asserted that the BI has no search warrant.
This afternoon, we received unconfirmed reports that Kim will be released today and that BI OIC Siegfred Mison will call up NUPL lawyer Jun Oliva, who conferred with Kim in the detention center, to facilitate her immediate release. Mison was only able to call Oliva after 5pm. He said that they are proposing two ways which can facilitate Kim’s release: 1) she files a petition for bail to be able to leave and this can only be heard on Monday and until such time that the bail hearings will be resolved, she will have to stay detained 2) she writes a letter for voluntary deportation addressed to the commissioners of the BI ,to which each and every member of the Board of Commissioners must reply to; this can likewise be discussed and deliberated upon by the commissioners only on Monday. Clearly, these are tactics by the Bureau of Immigration to unjustifiably keep Kim in detention and to delay her release.
Karapatan condemns this blatant harassment and violation of rights of Kim Chatillon-Meunier. This is similar to what the Bureau of Immigration did to Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum to prevent him from leaving the country immediately. Karapatan views these incidents as a violation on Chatillon-Meunier’s fundamental right to free expression and, her right to study and support human rights issues in the Philippines. Karapatan demands that the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Justice, and Pres. Benigno Aquino III immediately release Kim and allow her to go back to Canada. We demand the withdrawal of this so-called watchlist as tools of harassment and suppression of fundamental rights, especially among foreigners who support the Filipino people’s cause.
We appeal to our fellow human rights defenders all over the world to issue public statements and communicate with Philippine authorities to press for the immediate release of Chatillon-Meunier and for her to be able to go back home. We enjoin you to demand that the Philippine government withdraw the said “watchlist” which being used to attack the efforts of freedom-loving peoples to forge and strengthen international solidarity. Attached are Karapatan’s press statement and a template letter for Philippine authorities, which can be used for communicating our appeal.
Thank you very much.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
Secretary General, Karapatan
KARAPATAN National Office
2/F Erythrina Building #1 Maaralin cor. Matatag Sts., Central District, 1100 Quezon City
Web Site: http://www.karapatan.org