By Jeffrey Damicog
Australian nun Patricia Fox has hailed as a “temporary victory” the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hear her appeal not to be expelled from the country over allegations she has been participating in political activities.
“The issuance of the DOJ order is our temporary victory,” read a statement from her camp today, May 26.
“However, Sister Fox and her lawyers will not remain complacent since it seemed that it was no less than the most powerful man in the country, the President, who wants her out of the country,” it assured.
The BI previously issued an April 23 order forfeiting Fox’s missionary visa due to allegations of violating the conditions of her stay by participating in political activities and gave her a temporary visitor’s visa lasting only 30 days which was supposed to end on Friday (May 25). Fox filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied by the BI on May 24.
Because of this, Fox filed on Friday before the DOJ a petition for review which sought to overturn the BI order.
After filing the petition for review, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued an order the same day directing the BI to file its comment over Fox’s petition for review within “a non-extendible period of ten days from receipt hereof.”
“Sister Pat and her lawyers welcome this recent development and appreciate the immediate and prompt action of the DOJ secretary on her appeal. For one, it removes the anxiety and concern that she will be arrested anytime by the agents of the bureau similar to what they did last April 16, 2018,” her camp said.
“For another, the said order has given her a ray of hope that her case will be justly and fairly reviewed and prays that the Bureau of Immigration’s April 23 order will be reversed and set aside for utter lack of factual and legal basis,” it added.
Fox’s camp warned against upholding the BI order since it would “set a dangerous precedent on foreigners engaged in missionary or solidarity works within the Philippines, especially those who are working and immersing with the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.”
“This is a serious threat and blatant attack to the universally recognized rights to freedom of expression and peaceably assemble,” her camp stated.
In her petition for review, Fox’s lawyers explained to the DOJ she did not violate immigration laws for allegedly participating in political activities.
“Even assuming, without necessarily admitting, that the Petitioner participated in rallies and fact-finding missions, such participation did not violate the terms for the issuance of her Missionary Visa,” read her petition for review.
Citing the Immigration Act of 1940, her lawyers reminded that foreigners who are prohibited from entering the country are those who “believe in or advocate the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Philippines, or of constituted lawful authority, or who disbelieve in or are opposed to organized government, or who advocate the assault or assassination of public officials because of their office, or who advocated or teach principles, theories, or ideas contrary to the Constitution of the Philippines or advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property, or who are members of or affiliated with any organization entertaining or teaching such doctrines.”
Though she was seen in photos holding a slogan “Free all Political Prisoners,” her lawyers explained whatever she is doing in the country remains “part of and consistent with her missionary work of promoting peace, social justice and human rights.”
“Be that as it may, the Petitioner is in the valid exercise of her right to freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble. This is not a prohibited act,” they stated.