Press Statement | June 29, 2018

For reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 09173162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 09189790580

Detention, harassment of foreign missionaries, a dark legacy of a paranoid and murderous regime – Karapatan

“The nearly 2-month detention of a Methodist missionary from Zimbabwe and the harassment of two other missionaries from the US and Malawi demonstrate the paranoia overdrive of a brutal and repressive regime that has much to hide. At the same time, it also shows the Duterte administration’s dire lack of understanding and respect for the right of peoples to extend international solidarity to Filipinos who bear the brunt of this anti-people government,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, on recent reports on the situation of foreign missionaries who participated in an international ecumenical fact-finding mission on rights violations in Mindanao.

On June 26, 2018, the General Board of Global Ministries, the worldwide mission agency of The United Methodist Church, launched a campaign for the immediate release of Tawanda Chandiwana, a citizen of Zimbabwe, who was arrested and detained on May 9 in Davao City, and transferred to the BIWF Bicutan detention center, Taguig City Manila on June 4. Chandiwana was initially charged with overstaying his missionary visa, although he was attempting to change his status to a tourist visa since he was nearing the end of his mission service in the Philippines. The charges against him was expanded when his name was found on a “watchlist” of alleged subversives.

The GBGM of the UMC called on Philippine authorities to allow Chandiwana and two other missionaries to leave the Philippines. Miracle Osman, a citizen of Malawi, was in the process of renewing her missionary visa when her passport was confiscated by government officials. Adam Shaw, a citizen of the United States, has been informed that an order to leave is imminent but it has not been served.

Founded in New York City in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 300 missionaries in 60 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects and partners in a total of 136 countries, invluding the Philippines. Chandiwana and Osman are Global Mission Fellows, sent by The United Methodist Church to serve for 20 months in works of justice and mercy through participation in such ministries as peacebuilding, creation care, English teaching, human rights advocacy, and social work. Shaw is a former Global Mission Fellow in the Philippines who serves in the country as a global missionary with The United Methodist Church.

“Karapatan and other human rights and people’s organizations recognize the missionary work of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines in upholding human rights and dignity in the course of their promotion of social justice. They have accompanied victims of human rights violations and provided spaces for international solidarity for the poor and oppressed sectors in the country,” Palabay said.

Chandiwana, Osman and Shaw were assigned to ministries in Davao City. In February 2018, the three participated in an international fact-finding mission on the reported extrajudicial killings, harassment, and other rights violations against peasants and indigenous people in Mindanao, where martial law is enforced by the Duterte regime. Since then, they have been under government surveillance.

“Despite Duterte’s thuggish hubris and his minions’ arrogance and deception, they seem to be so afraid of foreign observers and domestic actors who dispute their twisted narrative that everything is well and fine in Mindanao with martial law. The truth, however, cannot be subdued as the numerous documented stories and cases attest to this regime’s brutality,” Palabay said.

“We are appalled at how the Duterte administration is using and distorting the country’s immigration laws to go after foreign missionaries like the three Methodists and Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, who were undertaking their missions in serving poor Filipino peasants and indigenous people. Tumutulong na nga sa mga Pilipino, ginigipit nyo pa. They are also merely exercising their right to provide international support and solidarity,” she added.

“Karapatan supports the call for the immediate release of Chandiwana, and for the three missionaries to be allowed to leave the Philippines. We call on the Duterte administration to stop the harassment and attacks against missionaries and human rights defenders. We enjoin the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the committees on human rights of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct an independent investigation of the said cases,” Palabay concluded.


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.