DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Australian activist Sister Patricia Fox is not backing down after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reaffirmed on Wednesday its order to forfeit her missionary visa and to have her deported on May 25.
Fox, 71, will file a petition for review before the Department of Justice (DOJ), her lawyer Jobert Pahilga said in a statement, Wednesday.
The BI threatened Fox of another deportation case should she defy its order to leave the country on May 25.
BI spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said “It’s already final and executory. Wala po sa ating process na mag-file ng motion for reconsideration sa Department of Justice… The order states that deportation proceedings will be initiated if she stays.”
She said their deportation proceedings would continue even if Fox files an appeal before the DOJ. She also said another deportation case against Fox could result in a blacklist order.
Pahilga said they are contesting BI’s order because if left unchallenged, it would 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 or not.”
“Sister Pat, thus, expects and hopes that the BI will abide by its rules of procedure, not arrest or forcibly deport her, give her the opportunity to appeal it to the DOJ and let the latter decide on her appeal,” he added.
Fox’s camp has maintained that even a foreigner has the right to freedom of expression.
“She reiterates that what she did – participating in gatherings or assemblies of farmers, indigenous peoples who demand that their rights to land and resources be respected; or workers in their demand for humane and just wages, security of tenure, and humane conditions of work, and the like – is an exercise of that right, and are not political activities but simply to help promote and protect the rights of the poor and the needy,” Pahilga noted.
“They are consistent and in accordance with the her mission and the charism of the Sister of our Lady of Sion to promote peace, social justice, and human rights,” he continued.
Fox’s camp earlier filed a motion for reconsideration which sought to reverse the board’s April 23 order.
The BI said the agency’s board of commissioners forfeited the 71-year-old’s missionary visa after “she was found to have engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa.”
Last April 16, Fox was arrested and investigated by the BI, which President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he ordered because of Fox’s “disorderly conduct” and her attendance and participation in political rallies.
Fox, the superior of the Notre Dame de Sion Philippine Province, has been immersing with peasants in the Philippines for 27 years.
Members of the House Makabayan opposition bloc, although not surprised, have strongly condemned the decision of the BI.
“We already knew from the start that it will be decided like this, as it is already President Rodrigo Duterte who exposed himself as intolerant of Sr. Pat’s work to help poor farmers in the country, this decision just validated political persecution, that he works against the welfare of the marginalized, callous of their plight and insecure of those who help,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said.
Casilao also said that Duterte’s action against Fox was “morally bankrupt” and would “certainly earn waves of international condemnation” as what took place during her arrest in April.
For his part, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate has called on Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to look into the Fox’s case, saying it poses a “dangerous precedence” in what political and partisan activities may mean.
“Nananawagan tayo kay Justice Secretary Guevarra na tingnan impartially ang isyung ito dahil ang tingin ko ang BI ay sarado na ang kanilang mata,” Zarate said.
“Napaka-dangerous ng ginawa ng Immigration na dine-define nila what is a political activity, masyado nila inistretch ‘yung definition especially sa mga perceived nila as critics ng gobyerno,” he added. (davaotoday.com)