Canadian nabbed for joining SONA rally: Karapatan
MANILA – A Canadian student is being held by immigration officials for her alleged participation in the protest rally during President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address in July, human rights advocate Karapatan said.
Karapatan said Kim Chatillon-Meunier, 24, is at the Bureau of Immigration detention center in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.
"We call on the BI to immediately release Kim and allow her to go home to Canada. We likewise demand that such blacklists/watchlists should be withdrawn or scrapped by the BI, as these are tools for harassment and suppression of fundamental rights," Karapatan said in a press statement.
The group learned that Chatillon-Meunier was nabbed on Friday evening while about to take her flight for Hong Kong. She was also placed on an immigration "watchlist" for allegedly participating in the SONA rally.
"Kagabi pumunta na doon ang isang paralegal staff ng Karapatan to look into her situation and ask her the full details of what happened to her," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay told ABS-CBNnews.com on Saturday morning.
Palabay said Chatillon-Meunier merely observed the rally. She did not join the march nor held placards.
Chatillon-Meunier is the second foreigner to be held by immigration officials. Last month, Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum was also prevented from boarding his flight to China.
Palabay said that unlike van Beersum who was questioned while inside the airport, Chatillon-Meunier was arrested and brought to a detention facility.
"Kumuha na din kami ng representation to make sure of her safety while inside the facility. Hanggang ngayon nandun pa din siya," Palabay said. "Very arbitrary, kasi walang malinaw na warrant. She was just briefed on the charges against her. Tried to have her belongings search".
Van Beersum made the headlines after he was seen in a viral photo confronting a police officer who broke down in tears while trying to disperse the protesters.
"Karapatan condemns this blatant harassment and violation of rights of Chatillon-Meunier. Like what the BI and the Aquino administration did to Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum, they are violating Chatillon-Meunier's fundamental right to free expression and her right to study and support human rights issues in the Philippines," the group said.
The Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiative said in a statement Chatillon-Meunier came to the Philippines as an interim from the international studies program of the University of Montreal. She observed the program of the SONA rally.
"Her research is focused on women's health in communities in Tondo, Manila. Kim was a delegate to last July's International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines, and joined the international solidarity and humanitarian mission in Quezon province prior to the conference," the group said.