Philippines bars elderly Australian who it says joined rally

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine immigration bureau said Thursday it has blocked the entry of an Australian who has been blacklisted for reportedly joining a 2015 rally in violation of regulations barring foreigners from engaging in political activities in the country.

Gill Hale Boehringer, 84, is the latest foreigner to face expulsion after reportedly joining local protests. Immigration officials have ordered the deportation of an Australian nun who angered the president for joining anti-government rallies.

Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Boehringer arrived Wednesday at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Guangzhou, China, but "was excluded for being blacklisted."

Boehringer reportedly participated in a rally in November 2015 which was "in clear violation" of immigration policy prohibiting foreigners from engaging in political activities, Sandoval said.

"Inclusion in the blacklist means that the subject is a threat to public order and safety, and blacklisting minimizes that risk," Sandoval said, adding that blacklisted foreigners could seek to be removed from the list if they submit "sufficient proof to reverse the blacklist."

Boehringer denied joining the rally. "I suspect that I wasn't even in the country at that time," he told the ABS-CBN TV network.

His lawyers will seek his removal from the blacklist so he can seek medical treatment in the country, ABS-CBN reported.

A doctor who examined Boehringer, Geneve Rivera-Reyes, said it may be risky for him to travel again due to a pulmonary illness and skin infection on both legs. She called the immigration bureau "heartless" in seeking Boehringer's expulsion.

Sandoval said Boehringer was not detained but was turned over to airline officials after being barred entry. He was made to wait at an airport holding area to board the next available flight back to Guangzhou, she said.

Last month, the immigration bureau ordered the deportation of an Australian nun, Sister Patricia Anne Fox, who has angered President Rodrigo Duterte by joining anti-government rallies, although her lawyers called the move political persecution. Fox appealed the expulsion order and remains in the country.

Duterte's administration also barred a critical Italian politician, Giacomo Filibeck, from entering the Philippines in April.

Duterte has been highly sensitive to criticism, especially by foreigners, who he says have no right to meddle in the country's affairs. His anti-drug crackdown has left thousands of suspects dead and alarmed human rights groups and Western governments.

Philippine officials deny any political persecution and say foreigners will have no problem as long as they follow the law. In 2014, nine foreign journalists were blacklisted for heckling then President Benigno Aquino III, Sandoval said.

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