Philippines deports detained Methodist missionary

Tawanda Chandiwan was accused of overstaying visa and engaging in leftist activities
Philippines deports detained Methodist missionary

Filipino Methodists hold placards bearing the photograph of missionary Tawanda Chandiwana of Zimbabwe who was detained in the Philippines before being deported on July 5. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

A Protestant missionary was deported from the Philippines on July 5 following a month in detention for reportedly participating in "leftist activities."

Immigration officials escorted Tawanda Chandiwana, a Zimbabwe national who had been working as a missionary for the United Methodist Church, onto a plane.

Chandiwana's deportation came a day after another Methodist missionary, American national Adam Thomas Shaw, was sent home.

Shaw was earlier barred from leaving the country after authorities confiscated his passport for joining a "fact-finding mission" in Mindanao.

Immigration spokeswoman, Dana Krizia Mengote Sandoval, said the bureau had ordered the immediate expulsion of Chandiwana back to his home country. 

Chandiwana was arrested and detained on May 9 in Davao City for overstaying his missionary visa that expired on April 6. 

He was also blacklisted by immigration authorities for allegedly engaging in illegal political activities.

Bishop Ciriaco Francisco of the United Methodist Church in Manila expressed relief over Chandiwana's release.

"This is good news. Finally, our missionary is free to go home and reunite with his family back in Zimbabwe," said the Protestant prelate.

Bishop Francisco, who was able to talk to Chandiwana at the airport, said the missionary was "in good shape and spirits."

"He wants to extend his gratitude to all the people and church workers who helped him while he was in the country," said the prelate.

Chandiwana is a member of the Hilltop United Methodist Church in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and a holder of a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in public policy and governance.

He had been working in the Philippines since October 2016 but only applied for a missionary visa in 2017. 

Immigration officials said Chandiwana would not be allowed to enter the Philippines again. 

"Aside from the deportation case for overstaying his visa, he was charged with violating his visa provisions by engaging in leftist activities," Sandoval told ucanews.com. 

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The immigration official said Chandiwana’s case and the cases of other foreign missionaries, like Australian Catholic missionary nun Patricia Fox, are "not isolated and do not mean any crackdown." 

"This is a normal immigration procedure. We look at their records and if we find violations, we act on them," she said, adding that the case made news because they are church workers.

"There is no campaign against religious missionaries or the church for that matter. We deport foreign nationals who violate regulations regardless of his or her occupation," the official said.

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