BI frees Aussie nun amid protests

“The nun who knows no season in coming to the aid of the poorest of the poor will absolutely be defended and protected by those whose rights and interests she selflessly fought for.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The 71-year old Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox was released for further investigation by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) today, April 17, a day after she was taken into custody on Monday.

Fox was detained inside the agency’s office in Intramuros, Manila.

Sister Patricia Fox after her release from the Bureau of Immigration, April 17. (Photo courtesy of Sinag Bayan)

Before her release, several groups expressed condemnation over what they described as the arbitrary arrest and detention of the Australian nun who has been in the Philippines for the past 27 years. Groups led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) held an indignation rally in front of the BI saying that helping the poor and the oppressed is not a crime.

“The government could not present any apparent logical reason for Sister Pat’s arrest and detention. State forces just want to threaten, harass and intimidate foreigners and Filipinos who would stand up against state-sponsored killings and terrorism,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.

Read: Immigration agents arrest Aussie nun active in human rights work in the Philippines

Other progressives and colleagues from the church such as Sr. Mary John Mananzan, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate also went to the BI office to visit Fox and wait for her release.

Reports said that Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente has approved the recommendation of the BI legal division to release Fox “after it was established that the Australian nun holds a valid missionary visa and, thus she is a properly documented alien.” The BI said that Fox submitted her passport and other immigration documents which showed that her visa is valid until September 9 of this year.

The BI arrested Fox over intelligence reports of her participation in rallies and other political activities including the recently held International Fact Finding Mission in Mindanao.

Furthermore, the BI legal division also noted that “while Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions by farmers in the past, she was not doing so at the time when BI operatives served her the mission order.”

At past 3:00 p.m. Fox was finally released from the BI’s custody and was warmly welcomed by the groups who called for her immediate release.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said Fox’s “release is a result of the concerted efforts of the religious, peasant activists, human rights advocates, lawyers, progressive legislators and all who believe that activism is never a crime.”

Fox or fondly called as Sister Pat, who is also a lawyer, is from the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion and an active supporter of the struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

“The arrest of this well-meaning missionary by elements of the Bureau of Immigration reveals less about the character of Sister Pat than it does about the true character of the US-Duterte regime—that it is militarist, anti-farmer, and anti-worker, and that it is pro-landlord and pro-oligarch,” the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura in a statement.

Meanwhile, Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines (Ascent) described Fox as someone who has involved herself in vast issues afflicting the Filipino people.

From genuine agrarian reform, right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples, church people’s rights, right to development, women’s empowerment and a host of many other issues, Ascent said in a statement.

“She is everywhere and we do not know in what sector she belongs — She can be with the peasants in Hacienda Luisita this week and with the church people in a rally the following week. And after that she will be with the indigenous peoples somewhere in Mindanao. Then she holds consultations with co-founders of a program for the elderly,” it added.

Fox led the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) from 2000-2007. The group said, during her time in the RMP, Fox led in providing support services to its constituencies including support for agricultural production, trainings in project management, self-help undertakings and organizational development.

“The nun who knows no season in coming to the aid of the poorest of the poor will absolutely be defended and protected by those whose rights and interests she selflessly fought for,” the group said. ()

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