(C) Australian nun Patricia Fox
MANILA, Philippines – Australian nun Patricia Fox has left the Philippines on Saturday (November 3) after 27 years of stay in the country.
Her departure was prompted by the expiration of her temporary visitor’s pass that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) granted after the agency downgraded her missionary visa.
Sister Fox is facing deportation charges for joining anti-government protests, an act strictly prohibited to foreign nationals in the Philippines.
The 71-year-old missionary vowed to continue with her advocacy even outside of the Philippines.
“The deportation case is continuing and will continue. My problem was the visa, and you cannot force the government to give you a visa, and so what I chose is to go out at present and to take my advocacies, outside the Philippines,” Fox said.
“I haven’t planned much but I know it’s probably a call now to struggle with the people in a different form,” she said during a farewell news conference Saturday before her departure.
She called on Filipinos to help the marginalized sector in their fight for decent houses and employment.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered an investigation on Fox’s activities when she was reported to have joined a fact-finding mission in Mindanao which the government considered a political interference.
Soon after, the BI suspended her missionary visa and placed her on a blacklist. The agency then ordered her deportation.
Her legal counsel, on the other hand, insisted that Fox was just helping the poor and she was only acting in support of freedom of religious expression.
Atty. Jobert Pahilga said they are expecting the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Fox’s deportation case this week.
“We are hoping that our arguments will be sustained that there is no basis for the deportation because the evidence submitted were unverified….but in the event that the department of justice will deny our appeal, we can bring the matter to the Court of Appeals. And if in case the Court of Appeals would unfavorably decide on our petition, then we can bring the matter to the Supreme Court,” Pahilga said.
Her camp said Fox is determined to return to the Philippines if she wins her deportation case or perhaps at the end of President Duterte’s term.
Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said: “The departure of Sister Patricia Fox is a timely reminder to all foreigners who stay or sojourn in this country that they are not entitled to all the rights and privileges granted to the citizens of the Philippines, including the absolute exercise of political rights inherently exclusive to Filipinos.”
Panelo added that Fox’s participation in such political activities “violated the conditions of her stay thereby mocking our laws, and abusing the hospitality extended to her by the host country.”
Malacañang insisted that there was no violation of freedom of expression in Sister Fox’s case as she “was given due process of law. She underwent a legal process where she was given the opportunity to be heard.”
Nevertheless, Malacañang said the Philippines is thankful of “whatever good deeds she has performed during her stay in the country.”
However, Panelo noted that such actions “cannot exempt her from the punishment imposed by law as a consequence of her wrongdoing.”
“Our advice to Sister Fox is to follow the law whether here or elsewhere,” Panelo concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)