Sister Fox gets reprieve; DOJ lets her stay in PH until June 18
Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox on Friday won a reprieve after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra acted favorably on her petition and allowed her to stay in the country until June 18.
Fox on Friday filed a 24-page petition at the justice department, asking it to annul the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) decision to kick her out of the country after President Duterte had accused her of committing “disorderly conduct” for allegedly participating in partisan political activities.
Acting swiftly on Fox’s petition for review, Guevarra said the 30-day period that the BI had given the Catholic nun to leave the country was “interrupted” when she filed an appeal five days after her missionary visa was revoked.
The justice secretary said the BI’s decision to deny Fox’s motion for reconsideration gave the nun another 25 days, or until June 18, to stay in the Philippines.
Guevarra also directed the immigration bureau to answer Fox’s petition within 10 days and for her to submit a reply in five days.
“This office reserves the right to call such clarificatory hearings as may be necessary to arrive at a just resolution of this appeal,” Guevarra said in a two-page order.
Accompanied by her counsel, Katherine Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, as well as members of militant groups, Fox reiterated that the immigration bureau had arbitrarily revoked her missionary visa and downgraded it to a temporary visitor’s visa.
“I wish to continue my missionary work to help the poor and my work as a human rights defender,” Fox told reporters after filing her petition.
Lawyer Jobert I. Pahilga of Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo said Fox’s passport was also returned to the Australian missionary on Friday, with no annotation.
BI order defied
The nun, who was arrested by immigration agents on April 16, said she was not given a chance to answer the allegations against her as the BI immediately ordered her to leave the country within 30 days.
Fox, 71, who had been doing missionary work in the Philippines since 1990 as a member of Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, defied the BI’s order to fly out of the country on Friday.
“With all due respect, the board of commissioners of the [BI] decided a question of substance and procedure, which is not in accord with the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence,” Fox said in her petition.
She said the immigration officials also gravely abused their discretion when they ordered the cancellation of her missionary visa.
‘No basis in fact, in law’
“It is worthwhile to state that the visa of a foreigner sojourning in the Philippines may only be canceled or downgraded based on the grounds provided for by law and/or administrative/implementing issuances,” Fox’s petition stressed.
“Obviously, the cancellation [of my visa] has no basis in fact and in law, especially so that [I] was not given the chance to refute the charges against [me],” the petition added.
Fox had initially filed an appeal at the BI that contested its order to forfeit her missionary visa and to deport her within 30 days, but her lawyers said they received the immigration bureau’s response junking Fox’s appeal only on Thursday.
In its response, the BI also claimed that its order was “final and executory,” and that Fox’s tourist visa had expired on Friday.
Fox’s lawyers questioned the BI order, saying it would only be final and executory 15 days after notice to the concerned foreigner, who could still extend the period by filing an appeal at the Department of Justice (DOJ) or even at the Supreme Court.
Fox was with members of the religious and Makabayan bloc Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s party-list when she filed her petition with the DOJ.
Fox’s lawyers had questioned the BI’s April 23 order, saying that the report presented by the BI intelligence division “did not show Fox was engaged in antigovernment activities but are consistent with her missionary work of promoting peace, social justice and human rights.”
The report, they said, had an attached photo showing Fox holding a placard that said “Free all political prisoners.”
“The place, context and even source of the photograph were not duly established as required by the rules of evidence,” Fox’s motion added.
The lawyers said the photos did not comprise a prohibited act or a crime but was “a legitimate expression of Fox’s solidarity as a missionary nun to the people’s redress of grievances regarding the plight of political prisoners who were mostly peasants, trade unionist, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and [those from] oppressed sectors of society.”
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