DOJ allows Fox to stay

By Jeffrey Damicog

Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox will not be deported, at least, for now.

Sister Patricia Fox (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN) Sister Patricia Fox (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)

On Monday the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a resolution granting Fox’s petition to review,thus allowing her continued stay in the country. In Fox petition, she sought to nullify the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) order to forfeit her missionary visa.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in the DOJ resolution, pointed out that visa forfeiture is not among the powers of the BI.

“Our existing laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers – including visas – when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory,” read the resolution signed by Guevarra.

“What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra pointed out.

The BI issued an order last April 23 forfeiting Fox’s missionary visa due to allegations of violating the conditions of her stay and gave her a temporary visitor’s visa lasting only 30 days.

“This Office cannot sanction BI’s resort to a visa forfeiture, and (the Bureau’s) orders against (Fox) which result therefrom,” Guevarra said.

“To hold otherwise will legitimize (BI’s) assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws,” he pointed out.

Though he agrees with the BI’s stand that a visa is a privilege given to foreigners, Guevarra said that “this does not meant it can be withdrawn without legal basis.”

“The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” he stated.

Guevarra said the case against Fox should have been treated as a “cancellation” case.

“For this reason, we are returning this case to the BI for its proper disposition,” said Guevarra.

Since the BI has yet to determine if there is basis to cancel Fox’s missionary visa, Guevarra pointed out it is “therefore premature for us at the DOJ to decide that matter now.”

He instead ordered the BI to hear the visa cancellation case as well as the pending deportation case against Fox.

Guevarra assured that until the BI has issued a resolution over the cancellation and deportation proceedings, Fox may continue her duties as a missionary in the Philippines.