MANILA (UPDATE) - An opposition lawmaker wants the Senate to investigate possible abuses of the state's power to deport foreign nationals following the cancellation of an Australian nun's visa for allegedly participating in political activities.
Sen. Bam Aquino on Wednesday condemned the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) order for missionary Sister Patricia Fox to leave the country, which he said showed how the current administration is trying to silence its critics.
"Now, more than ever, we need our laws to protect the rights of people willing to stand up to power and speak out against injustices," he said. "I will file a resolution once again to investigate possible abuses in the deportation of foreign nationals."
The BI claims Fox has engaged in political activities, which violated the terms of her stay here. Her visa was cancelled amid an ongoing deportation case based on the same allegations.
Fox has repeatedly denied joining political activities, saying her work as a missionary requires her to be with the poor. Her camp said they will question the BI's order within the 30-day period set by the government agency.
The BI's action against Fox followed the deportation of Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists, on April 16.
Filibeck, a human rights leader, was barred from entering the country for alleged involvement in illegal political activity.
In 2013, the lawmaker filed a Senate resolution seeking to ensure that freedom of expression of foreign nationals is not curtailed. This followed the deportation of a Canadian who joined an anti-government rally.
In that resolution, Aquino wanted Congress to find balance among freedom of speech and expression, right to peaceful assembly, and the right of the state to protect its sovereignty and national interest.
Liberal Party President Sen. Francis Pangilinan called the deportation order "deplorable" and a "sign of weakness."
"Harassing human rights advocates and faith-based organizations and individuals may succeed in the short run but it will eventually fail," he said in a statement.
"Gestapo-like tactics will only strengthen the people's resolve to resist. [Adolf] Hitler's 1,000 years of the Third Reich ended just after a few years," said Pangilinan, making reference to the late German dictator and leader of the repressive Nazi Party.
Meanwhile, minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling on the immigration bureau to review and overturn its decision. She said the agency's move promotes the climate of impunity in the country rather than securing sovereignty.
"It is disheartening as a Filipino that the country's President chooses to be a 'Deporter-in-Chief' to his perceived critics than a real Commander-in-Chief against actual threats to the country's sovereignty and national security," she said in a statement.