Australian missionary gets temporary relief, fight vs deportation continues

Australian missionary Patricia Fox attends a solidarity gathering for Moros June 19 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat)

“BI seems very determined…but we are also determined to keep on appealing.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA —Australian nun Patricia Fox was all smiles as she attended a solidarity gathering for Moro people at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, June 19.

A day before, the Department of Justice (DOJ) nullified the Bureau of Immigration’s forfeiture of her missionary visa. In a resolution, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said the BI’s forfeiture of Fox’s visa was “without legal basis.”

The 71-year-old missionary said she was “very relieved” with the DOJ’s decision. “Secretary Guevarra wasn’t pressured. He followed the law,” Fox told Bulatlat in an interview.

In his decision, Gueverra argued that what the BI did is beyond what the law provides. While the Justice Secretary agreed that a visa is a privilege, he maintained “the BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner.”

Fox – who spent 27 years in the Philippines doing missionary work – knows fully well that the DOJ’s order is but a partial victory.

Guevarra said that the case against Fox would be treated as one for visa cancellation, a procedure that is allowed by law. The DOJ has returned the case to the BI.

Asked about the prospects of the case filed by BI, Fox, who is also a lawyer, said, “BI seems very determined…but we are also determined to keep on appealing.”

Fox was arrested by BI agents on April 16 for alleged “illegal political activities.” She was released the following day after condemnation from various groups.

On April 19, Duterte said that he ordered the investigation of Fox for “disorderly conduct.” The president also claimed that Fox has a “foul mouth.”

Asked for her reaction, Fox said, “He doesn’t even know me. It was the fact-finding mission in Mindanao that angered him.”

Fox joined an international fact-finding mission in the first week of April that investigated human rights abuses in different parts of Mindanao.

On May 3, Fox submitted her counter-affidavit, asserting that her activities “are part and parcel of her apostolate and missionary work.” Until now, Fox has received no word yet from the BI.

As she continues to face the threat of deportation, Fox thanked all those who have supported her – the farmers, the Church people, sectoral organizations, international groups, the media and ‘even people in the streets.’

Fox said she would have been deported immediately last April if not for the overwhelming support from various organizations.

“It’s been amazing,” Fox told Bulatlat. As her favorite mantra goes, “Laban tayo for the masa that we love.” (Let’s fight for the masses that we love.) ()

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