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BI releases Australian nun Patricia Fox but…

patricia fox

Patricia Fox. PHOTO by JULIE AURELIO / INQUIRER

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday released from its custody Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian missionary, a day after she was arrested for violating the conditions of her stay by engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.

BI Chief Jaime Morente approved the recommendation of the BI legal division headed by lawyer Arvin Cesar Santos that Fox be released for further investigation after it was established that the Australian nun holds a valid missionary visa and, thus, she is a properly documented alien.

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Fox, through her lawyers, submitted her passport and other immigration documents showing that she was issued her missionary visa on Oct. 15 last year and that said visa is valid until Sept. 9 this year.

Based on the two-page note with recommendation, Santos said that while Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions by farmers in the past, she was not doing so at the time when BI operatives served her the mission order on Monday.

However, Fox is still required to undergo a preliminary investigation, and must submit her counter-affidavit to the charge that she is an undesirable alien for allegedly joining protest actions.

Santos said Fox is not covered by inquest proceedings as the latter will only apply to aliens arrested after being caught flagrantly violating immigration laws.

Santos said under BI rules, Fox should undergo preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her before the bureau’s board of commissioners.

Upon her release, the frail-looking nun told reporters that she did not join political rallies in the strictest sense of the word.

“As a religious I’ve been joining pro-human rights rallies for the farmers for their land rights, to release political prisoners. If you call it political, I call it part of our duty as the religious to support and stand for the poor. I haven’t joined political rallies in terms of party politics, but I have been active in human rights issues,” she said.

She also expressed surprise that the Philippine government would treat her this way, as she has been living in the country for the past 27 years.

“I thought I was going to answer questions. May mga tanong pero ibang layunin. After 27 years, ganito ang treatment nila; I’ve been here since 1990,” Fox said.

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Her counsel, lawyer Jobert Pahilga, said the BI took custody of the nun’s passport to ensure that she will take part in the preliminary investigation.

“There’s no probable cause as of now, but because there is a formal complaint we need to file an answer. So she will still undergo the proceedings,” he said.

Pahilga maintained that his client’s work with farmers and human rights advocacies is far from being “undesirable” as the BI claimed it to be.

“Our immediate concern was that she will be released and won’t be deported. Our next step is how to get the case dismissed, because she’s not an undesirable alien. Her work is very much desired by farmers and indigenous peoples,” Pahilga said. /je

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TAGS: Australian nun, BI, Bureau of Immigration, release, Sister Patricia Fox
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