THE government on Wednesday ordered the deportation of a 71-year-old Australian Catholic nun who angered President Rodrigo Duterte, accusing her of engaging in illegal political activities outside of her missionary work.
Sister Patricia Fox, who was briefly detained last week, will be the second foreigner who has spoken out recently against Duterte’s policies to be expelled, as the government hits back at critics of his human rights record.
The immigration service said it had canceled the visa of Fox, who relocated to the Philippines in 1990 as a member of the missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sion.
“We direct Fox to leave the Philippines within 30 days from receipt of this order,” it said in a statement, adding that the nun had engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa.
Fox expressed sadness over the government’s decision to cancel her visa and give her 30 days to leave the country in which she has lived 28 years.
In a statement, Fox appealed to the Bureau of Immigration to reconsider its decision and allow her the chance to explain her mission as a religious sister.
“I was surprised as I had thought the process was that I would have 10 days to put in a counter-affidavit to answer the charges,” Fox said.
“I am still hoping for a chance to explain how I see my mission as a religious sister and maybe the decision can be reconsidered,” she added.
Fox.who is also a lawyer, recalled that she eagerly volunteered in 1990 to come to the Philippines since she had some Filipino friends in Australia.
She recalled her missions here in the Philippines with the people in the rural areas, the tribal people, the farmers, and started to realize the basic issues which caused their poverty.
“It was through them that I came to learn some of the basic issues which caused their poverty: Lack of their own lands, control of markets, dependence on pesticides,” she said.
Her lawyer Jobert Pahilga said the deportation order violated the nun’s right to due process, and she would appeal to have the immigration service ruling rescinded.
The immigration bureau held the nun overnight last week but released her without charges.
Following her detention, Fox said she had recently joined a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses against farmers by soldiers fighting communist rebels.
Hours after her release, Duterte announced he had personally ordered her investigated as a warning to foreigners to stop criticizing his government.
“I ordered her to be investigated... for disorderly conduct,” Duterte said in a speech last week.
“You insult me under the cloak of being a Catholic priest, and you are a foreigner! Who are you? It is a violation of sovereignty,” Duterte said, apparently referring to Fox.
Duterte has previously launched verbal attacks against critics of his government’s narcotics crackdown, which has killed thousands of alleged dealers and users.
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor launched a preliminary investigation in February into allegations of extrajudicial killings.
This prompted Duterte to withdraw from the ICC and threaten to arrest the chief prosecutor if she travels to the Philippines.
Earlier this month Manila also deported Italian Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary general of the Party of European Socialists, who had previously condemned “extrajudicial killings” in Duterte’s anti-drug war.
Malacanang defended the Bureau of Immigration decision to cancel Fox’s visa, saying the nun’s case had undergone the legal process.
“Preliminary investigation has been conducted to determine if she would be subjected to deportation proceedings. There had been evidence that she indeed joined political activities,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the BI granted her the visa as a privilege to engage in missionary work and not in political activities.
While Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III backed the order of the Bureau of Immigration to deport Fox, oppostion senators strongly opposed the move.
Pimentel said BI’s move was “correct” as it is within their power to order Fox to leave the country expecially if the foreigner has violated some laws.
He noted that a foreigner should never interfere in domestic politics.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan decried as “deplorable” the BI’s decision to order Fox to leave the country
“This deportation of a 71-year-old, ailing nun is most deplorable,” Pangilinan said.
“The act is not a sign of strength it is in fact a sign of weakness,” he added.
Pangilinan said the alleged harassments of human rights advocates and faith-based organizations and individuals “may succeed in the short run but it will eventually fail.”
“Gestapo-like tactics will only strengthen the people’s resolve to resist. Hitler’s 1000 years of the Third Reich ended just after a few years,” Pangilinan said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros asked how a 71-year-old nun could be considered a threat to the country’s sovereignty when China continues its incursion into the West Philippine Sea unchallenged.
“Is the Duterte government saying that the 71-year-old Australian nun is more of a threat to the country than its Chinese ally that has repeatedly disregarded our sovereignty and occupied our territories in the West Philippine Sea? We deport missionaries but allow China to continue its incursions unchallenged?” she said.
“Is the Duterte government saying that Sister Patricia is more dangerous than alleged big-time druglord Peter Lim? So we deport nuns while we let known and self-confessed drug lords roam free?”
“Is the Duterte government saying that the country has more to fear from Sister Patricia than the police officers who murdered the Mayor of Albuera, and who the Senate unanimously concluded are guilty of extrajudicial killing?”
Senator Francis Escudero said the deportation was unfortunate, but the grant or denial of a visa is at the discretion of the country.
“I am hopeful that Sister Fox can return again soon and this misunderstanding can be clarified and resolved,” he said.
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