Philippine immigration authorities on Sunday denied entry and deported a Socialist Party official from the European Union, who had criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal, anti-drugs crackdown.
Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists (PES), was denied entry at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the central Philippines for illegal political activity, an official and local party Akbayan said.
Filibeck was due to attend the two-day Akbayan Party Congress with about 20 other foreign delegates but was stopped at the immigration counter and handed a slip of paper informing him of a blacklist order, according to Akbayan statement.
The other foreigners were allowed entry.
"Akbayan condemns, in the strongest terms, the detention and deportation of European human rights leader Giacomo Filibeck," Akbayan said in a statement. Akbayan is a sister party of PES.
"This unfortunate incident only shows how paranoid this government is in keeping the rest of the world blind from the damage President Duterte has done to our country."
In Europe, PES also protested "in the strongest possible terms the unjustified detention and deportation" of one of its senior officials in the Philippines.
Sergei Stanishev, PES president, said it was "unacceptable" a member of the party "should [be] treated as a criminal on orders of the government and forcibly deported from the country."
"Clearly, the president intends to silence criticism of his deadly policies both at home and abroad," he added.
But, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra justified the immigration bureau's action on Filibeck, an Italian Socialist Party official who was part of the former ruling party in Rome.
"It is unlawful for aliens staying in our country to engage in partisan political activities, and the government has the right to refuse entry to those who have committed these illegal acts in the past," Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.
Filibeck was in the country in October 2017 together with an international human rights fact-finding mission, which denounced the killings under Duterte's anti-drugs campaign.
More than 4,100 people have died while resisting arrests in police anti-narcotics operations and another 2,300 people have died in what could be drug-related killings by masked gunmen on motorcycles since July 2016.
Akbayan said the Philippine leader, who is under scrutiny by the international community, including the International Criminal Court, for the killings "is scared of the global condemnation against his policy to kill."
Akbayan lawmaker Tom Villarin said he will file a lower house resolution to look into "this shameful incident."
"The ridiculous charge of illegal political activities is Duterte's way of saying he wants to criminalize criticisms," he said.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by David Evans)