MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Wednesday defended the government’s decision to expel an Australian nun from the Philippines for her alleged involvement in partisan political activity.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the decision of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to cancel the visa of Australian nun Patricia Fox went through the proper procedure. She must, therefore, comply with it, he said.
Roque said Fox violated the terms of her visa as she supposedly participated in partisan political activities, among others.
“We stand by the Bureau of Immigration’s order to forfeit Sister Patricia Fox‘s privilege of holding a missionary visa and to leave the Philippines,” Roque said in a statement.
“Investigation has been conducted and was determined that the Australian missionary violated the terms and conditions of her visa. Consequently, the same must be forfeited.”
Roque also referred to a photo taken of Fox at an alleged labor rally in Davao City earlier this month.
“Pruweba po na talagang siya ay naghihimasok at nakikialam at namumulitika dito sa ating bayan. So, iyon naman po talaga ang consequence kapag ikaw ay lumabag doon sa terms and conditions ng kaniyang visa,” Roque said in a GMA television interview.
“Ang visa niya po ay bilang isang missionary, ang missionary work po ay defined na ipakilala kung ano iyong relihiyon mo, kumuha ng mga mas marami pang mananampalataya, hindi po dapat namumulitika, at dahil nag-violate po siya ng terms and conditions niya, dapat siyang umalis ng Pilipinas.”
Fox had defended her presence in the rally saying she normally comes into contact with left-leaning groups because her missionary work involves dealing with farmers, indigenous peoples, and victims of social injustice.
LEAVE PH IN 30 DAYS
In cancelling Fox’s visa, the BI ordered the missionary nun to leave the Philippines in 30 days, citing her alleged partisan political activities.
Fox's alien certificate of registration was also deactivated after intelligence agents found photos of her alleged participation in an anti-government rally, said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.
“She was found to have engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa,” Morente said.
Fox, for her part, said she was saddened and surprised by the government’s swift decision.
“I am very sad that the decision at present is that I leave the Philippines. In 1990, when my congregation was asking for volunteers to come to the Philippines, I eagerly volunteered as I had Filipino friends in Australia,” Fox said in a statement.
She also defended her participation in activities that she said were aimed at helping the poor.
“As a Christian, believing that our mission is to bring God’s Kingdom to the here and now, I couldn’t help but to get involved both with projects, such as training in organic farming, to uplift the livelihood of the farmers, but also to advocate with them for their rights to land, livelihood, peace, justice and security, all universal human rights which the church sees as integral to her mission. It seems this is what has brought me into conflict with the Philippine Government,” she said.
Fox said she is still hoping to be given the chance to air her side and have the cancellation of her visa reversed.
“I may lose my right to be in the Philippines but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories,” she said.
Fox's lawyer Jobert Pahilga, meanwhile, slammed the immigration bureau’s order, saying it violated the nun's right to due process as she has yet to file a counter-affidavit to refute allegations against her.
"What we received yesterday was the supplemental report of the intelligence division. We were given 10 days to supposedly file our counter affidavit. That's why we were surprised there was an order by the BI to forfeit her visa," he said.
The lawyer insisted that Fox has only been engaged in missionary work with the farmers, indigenous peoples, and the poor, not in political activities. He said they would be questioning the BI order before the proper court.
The 71-year-old, who had been doing missionary work in the Philippines for 3 decades, may still return to the country but only as a tourist, BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said.
President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that he directed authorities to investigate Fox for alleged "disorderly conduct" but clarified he did not order her arrest.
Fox was detained just a day after European Socialist Party official Giacamo Filibeck was barred from entering the country and deported for criticizing the government.