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Sister Fox to exhaust all legal remedies

Australian nun refuses to leave PH

/ 07:05 AM May 25, 2018

Australian missionary Patricia Fox during press conference in Quezon City. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

Australian nun Patricia Fox on Thursday said she would not leave the Philippines until she had exhausted all legal remedies to reverse a decision by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to revoke her missionary visa.

“I am staying,” the tearful but defiant missionary told reporters.

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The immigration bureau on Wednesday turned down Fox’s appeal of its order last month to leave the country in 30 days after President Duterte directed authorities to investigate her for “disorderly conduct.”

President Duterte accused the 71-year-old nun, fondly called Sister Pat by her supporters and coworkers, of insulting the country and trampling upon its sovereignty.

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Final and executory

“This order is final and executory. We will not entertain any further motion for reconsideration,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

The BI order was based on allegations that Fox worked outside Barangay Amihan in Quezon City where she had said she would confine her missionary duties.

The bureau also accused her of engaging in political activities, according to BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval.

Sandoval said the bureau would initiate deportation proceedings against the nun if she refused to comply with the order to leave.

“In a deportation case, the worst case is blacklisting. The best is for her to leave,” Sandoval told reporters. Blacklisted foreigners are not allowed to enter the country.

Legal remedies

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Fox’s lawyers said she would not leave before exhausting all legal remedies, including an appeal to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Supreme Court.

“The order, if not challenged, will have far-reaching implications to other missionaries similarly situated with Sister Pat as the BI can now rule and decide what activity is considered political [and what is] not,” said her lawyer, Jobert Pahilga.

Katherine Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the BI’s move to downgrade Fox’s visa to a visitor’s visa that would expire on Friday could not be considered final.

According to Panguban, immigration rules provided that such a decision becomes executory only 15 days after notice to the concerned foreigner, who can gain an extension by filing an appeal.

“We are preparing for the worse. We will bring this even up to the Supreme Court,” she said.

‘Political persecution’

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the decision to expel the Australian nun showed political persecution of defenders of the poor.

Casilao said the decision to expel Fox would “certainly earn waves of international condemnation.”

Fox has been involved in missionary work and human rights advocacy for nearly 30 years in the Philippines as a member of Sisters of Our Lady of Sion.

She believes she had angered the President by joining a fact-finding mission in April to investigate alleged abuses against farmers and the “lumad” of Mindanao.

Struggling people

Fox said if someone like her could be dealt with harshly by the government and falsely accused of committing offenses, ordinary people like workers and families of victims of killings suffer more deprivations.

“These are the people who need to get out of these situations because they’re not being treated with dignity as people,” she said.

Despite their suffering, she said they keep on struggling because they knew that they eventually would win their rights to their land, decent wages and housing and achieve justice.

“That’s what makes me happy — that they keep going. What makes me sad is the thought that I may have to leave them,” she said.

When the people’s dignity is undermined by an unjust system, a missionary like her must stand with them, Fox said.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” she said. “I believe that’s where church people should be, with the people who are struggling for their rights.”

Karapatan said participation in an investigation of rights violations was not a crime.

“It is an exercise of humanitarianism and solidarity,”the human rights group said in a statement. — REPORTS FROM JODEE A. AGONCILLO, TINA G. SANTOS, JEROME ANING AND MELVIN GASCON

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TAGS: Bureau of Immigration (BI), deportation order, missionary visa, Philippine news updates, Sister Patricia Fox
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