Philippines deports Zimbabwean missionary

Tawanda Chandiwana

The Philippines has deported a Zimbabwean missionary accused by immigration authorities of overstaying and banned from reentering the country for working without a visa and participating in “leftist-organized activities.”

Tawanda Chandiwana of the United Methodist Church flew for Harare, Zimbabwe on Thursday afternoon, his lawyer Kristina Conti and Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Sandoval confirmed.

Conti said the religious worker was able to leave after being ordered released from BI detention and submitting a clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation.

Chandiwana’s departure followed that of his American colleague Adam Thomas Shaw, who left the country on Wednesday, after being ordered by the BI to leave for allegedly working without a visa from 2011 to 2013, overstaying, and similarly for involvement in “leftist activities.”

The two foreign missionaries have left behind their similarly charged colleague Miracle Osman, a Malawian, who still has to submit documents such as a clearance proving she is free from criminal charges before she could leave, Sandoval said.

The missionaries are represented by the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), which has accused the government of a “systematic pattern of persecution” for subjecting the three to deportation investigations and blacklisting, a “serious penalty reserved for convicted criminals and threats to national security.”

Their contention is that the missionaries participated in fact-finding missions as part of their work with the United Methodist Church, which included work with children of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, or the lumad, in schools and evacuation centers.

“Surveillance, veiled threats, and tagging as communist-terrorists have also become standard for the missionaries and their Philippine partners in Mindanao and Manila,” an earlier statement from the PILC said.

The three foreigners’ cases came to light after the widely publicized legal battle of Australian missionary Patricia Fox to retain her missionary visa and fight deportation.

The BI has denied a crackdown on foreign religious workers. — RSJ, GMA News