Zimbabwean missionary held by Philippine regime; in detention since May 9

Tawanda Chandiwana

A ZIMBABWEAN missionary with the Methodist church has been caught up in the Philippines drug war and political in which thousands have lost their lives in government clampdowns.

Tawanda Chandiwana has been in detention at an immigration facility in Manila on suspicion of belonging to a subversive group.

Authorities in Harare have yet to publicly respond to his plight.

According to the church’s statement this Tuesday, Chandiwana was arrested on 9 May while attending a seminar in Mindanao.

“He was charged with overstaying his visa, though he had initiated the process of having a missionary visa changed to a tourist status since he was nearing the end of his 20-month missionary term,” said the United Methodists.

“The charge was expanded when he was found to be on a ‘watchlist’ of suspected subversives. He denies any wrongdoing and faults a delay in filing visa paperwork.”

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In February, he was briefly detained and questioned, along with two other missionaries from the United Methodist Church, when they were stopped at a police checkpoint in Mindanao while participating in a human rights fact-finding mission sponsored by a left-wing group.

A statement issued by the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church said Bureau of Immigration (BI) authorities have also prevented his colleagues— Adam Shaw of Brunswick, Ohio, and Miracle Osman of Blantyre, Malawi from leaving the Philippines.

“We vigorously protest this treatment of our mission personnel,” general secretary Thomas Kemper said in the statement. “It is unconscionable that Tawanda has been held for six weeks.”

While declining to comment, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval, however, promised to look into the missionaries’ cases.

President Rodrigo Duterte has openly attacked the Catholic Church and other religious groups that have been critical of his government’s brutal war on drugs and its human rights record.

Last week, the Department of Justice struck down a deportation order issued by the BI against Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox, who had participated in a political rally.

At least 20,000 people have died as a result of the drug war.

Human Rights Watch states that since the “drug war” began on June 30, 2016, Duterte and his officials have publicly undignified human rights advocates.