MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox is set to leave the Philippines following months of fighting the government's order to deport her, a group of human rights lawyers said Wednesday.
The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) said Fox will have to leave the country within the week after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) denied Wednesday her application for the extension of her temporary visitor visa.
She is required to leave the Philippines by Saturday, the NUPL said.
"Sr. Fox will leave the Philippines with a clear conscience that she has done nothing wrong and illegal during her 27 years of stay in the country," the lawyers' group said in a statement.
Last week, the immigration bureau said it granted Fox a temporary visitor's visa, a downgrade form her missionary visa which expired on Sept. 5.
The temporary visitor’s visa is good for 59 days or until Nov. 3 as the 59-day period is counted from Sept. 5.
“Under the circumstances, she is compelled to leave under strong protest,” Fox's lawyers said.
“We will not allow the government to forcibly expel Sr. Fox out of the country given her stature as a respected missionary nun and human rights defender. Neither will we give them the wicked pleasure of gloating over this injustice,” they added.
Supporters of the embattled nun will hold a rally as a tribute to Fox on Saturday.
The 71-year-old nun has sought to stay in the Philippines, where she has resided for nearly three decades.
APPEAL OF DEPORTATION CASE
Fox’s lawyers vowed to continue fighting the deportation order against the missionary, a case currently on appeal before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ said the nun's deportation case is "a totally different matter" from the expiration of her temporary visitor’s visa.
"Sister Fox has to leave after her visa expires, without prejudice to the DOJ decision in the deportation case on appeal. If Sister Fox eventually wins, her name will be removed from the immigration blacklist and she may return to the Philippines," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a text message.
The BI had ordered her deportation saying she violated the terms of her visa by participating in political activities. She has explained that her missionary work involved touching base with farmers and ordinary workers.
The DOJ has required both the BI and Fox to file their memoranda within 30 days.
A decision is expected by early December, Guevarra said.
The justice chief added that Fox’s departure will not affect her deportation case.
“Her voluntary departure, if true, is without prejudice to the resolution of her deportation case. If she wins, then her name will be removed from the blacklist,” he said in a text message to reporters.
WHAT WENT BEFORE
Fox was initially detained on April 16 after she allegedly took part in “illegal political activities” such as a human rights fact-finding mission.
Two days later, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he had Fox investigated for alleged “disorderly conduct” but clarified that he did not order her arrest.
He also called the missionary nun foul-mouthed for criticizing his government while ignoring her own country’s alleged misdeeds.
The BI had initially sought to expel Fox by forfeiting her visa but was rebuffed by Guevarra, who said the BI does not have the power of visa forfeiture, only visa cancellation.
It is this case that is now on appeal before the DOJ.
Fox had maintained that her participation in fact-finding missions, press conferences and rallies and her holding banners are part of her universally recognized and protected rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and are not political and partisan activities.
She added that these activities form part of her mission as a church worker of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion.
Fox also questioned intelligence reports that became the basis for the BI’s deportation order. She called them “unverified,” “hearsay,” “sloppy,” and based on social media stalking.