MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday released from its custody Australian missionary nun and known human rights advocate Sister Patricia Fox, a day after she was “illegally arrested and detained” by authorities.
The release order was issued by BI Chief Jaime Morente based on the recommendation of BI legal division head lawyer Arvin Cesar Santos.
The BI earlier claimed that the 71-year-old Australian national violated the conditions of her stay by engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.
But further investigation showed 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 issued a mission order against her on Monday.
It was also established that the nun holds a valid missionary visa and is a properly-documented alien.
But Santos said that 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.”
Prior to the issuance of Fox’s release order, progressive groups staged a protest in front of the BI office in Intramuros, Manila on Tuesday morning, condemning her “illegal arrest and detention,” and calling for her immediate release.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas earlier recounted that immigration officers arrested Fox at her residence at Project 2, Quezon City and later brought her to the agency for “a random checking and verification of her immigration papers and status.”
Human rights group Karapatan said BI agents showed Fox an “invitation /mission order” but did not furnish her a copy.
It added that while she was read the Miranda rights, no document indicating charges against her was shown.
Fox is an active land reform and human rights advocate and member of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (PATRIA). She also participated in the International Fact-finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) in Southern Mindanao region which seeks to probe the killings and human rights violations against farmers.
Fox was the second foreign national human rights advocate to have been arrested by the BI in the past two days.
Last Sunday, the BI also detained and immediately deported Giacomo Filibeck, leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES), who castigated President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in 2017.
Bayan Muna Rep.Carlos Isagani Zarate welcomed the order to release the detained peasant advocate, saying she should not have been arrested, detained and harassed in the first place since she is a properly documented missionary.
“This is welcome news but we have to be vigilant against these increasing harassment, strong-arm tactics and vilification moves against human rights defenders by the present administration,” he said.
The progressive lawmaker said this crackdown must be stopped, otherwise, the Duterte administration would “only face further resentment and isolation from the people, locally and internationally.” (davaotoday.com)