MANILA -- Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday lamented the deportation of Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox, whom she said seems to be "more Filipino than many of us."
Fox, who spent almost 3 decades working with Filipino laborers, farmers and urban poor, was accused of illegally engaging in political activism.
She apparently angered President Rodrigo Duterte by joining a fact-finding mission in April to investigate alleged abuses against farmers, including killings and evictions by soldiers fighting guerrillas in the south.
"Nakakalungkot kasi ito iyung isang tao na hindi naman Pilipino, pero inialay iyung kaniyang buhay para tulungan iyung pinakamahihirap nating mga kababayan," Robredo said in a radio show.
(It is saddening because this is someone who is not a Filipino, but offered her life to help our poorest countrymen.)
"Talagang babad na babad at nakakalungkot na pinaalis siya dito sa atin. Sabi ko nga, parang mas Pilipino pa siya kaysa sa marami sa atin," she added.
(She was really immersed and it is sad that she was asked to leave. As I've said, she seems to be more Filipino than many of us.)
Robredo also expressed dismay over the reason of Fox's deportation.
"Nakakalungkot na politika iyung naging dahilan. Nakakalungkot na iyung pagpahayag ng mga saloobin, parating lagi mong pagbayaran," she said.
(It is sad that politics was the reason. It is sad that you always have to pay for expressing your sentiments.)
Fox was arrested briefly earlier this year on charges of violating her visa's terms against activism in the Philippines. Immigration authorities last week refused to extend her tourist visa and ordered the 71-year-old out by Saturday.
She decided to return to Australia rather than risk being forcibly removed.
Welcomed by supporters at Melbourne airport, Fox told reporters on Saturday that she was happy to be home but had found it hard to leave.
"At present, the Philippines, the human rights abuses are just increasing and it is a reign of tyranny at present," Fox said.
"There has been a culture of impunity for a long time and it is getting worse."
Church figures have previously criticized Duterte's policies, particularly his signature war on drugs that has left almost 5,000 people dead since he took office in 2016.
Human rights groups charge that the actual death toll is about 5 times that total. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse