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IMMIGRATION RAID

Australian nun freed, says she stands with poor in PH

Australian nun Patricia Fox during her release from detention at the Bureau of Immigration —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

After almost 24 hours at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox was released from detention on Tuesday after authorities determined that the charge against her needed further investigation.

Fox, 71, was visibly relieved as she walked out of the BI office in Intramuros, Manila, around 3:30 p.m.

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Upon her release, the frail-looking nun told reporters she did not join political rallies in the strictest sense of the word.

“As a religious, I’ve been joining prohuman rights rallies for the farmers for their land rights, to release political prisoners,” Fox said.

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‘I call it duty’

“If you call it political, I call it part of our duty as the religious to support and stand for the poor,” she said.

“I haven’t joined political rallies in terms of party politics, but I have been active in human rights issues,” she added.

She also expressed surprise that the Philippine government would treat her this way, as she has been living in the country for the past 27 years.

Fox was arrested on Monday afternoon at her home in Project 2, Quezon City.

Six immigration officers brought her to the BI main office in Manila around 4 p.m. that day, telling her that she was being invited for questioning.

Concession

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The Inquirer got in touch with Fox shortly after her release.

She was to be detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, she said, but staying at BI was “a concession.”

With her in her detention cell were two nuns from her congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion or Notre Dame de Sion. Fox is her congregation’s regional coordinator.

Fox said she was able to get her passport from the travel agency only on Tuesday morning. It is now in the BI’s possession.

Her passport is due to expire in September 2018. She said she is in the Philippines on a missionary visa which is renewed every two years.

Nuns from Sisters of Sion in other countries had gotten in touch with Fox. So has the Australian Embassy.

The BI gave Fox 10 days to respond to charges against her, among which were her alleged participation in rallies. It was her lawyer Jobert Pahilga, Fox said, who spoke with immigration officials.

Visa valid

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said he approved the recommendation of the BI legal division to release Fox pending further investigation.

BI legal division chief Arvin Cesar Santos recommended her release after it was established that Fox had a missionary visa valid until Sept. 9 and was not an undocumented alien.

Santos said while Fox had been accused of joining anti-government rallies in the past, she was not doing so when arrested.

The group Promotion of Church People’s Response condemned the arrest of Fox.

“When has it become a crime for Church people to exercise their right to preach the Gospel and be in solidarity with the poor?” the group said in a statement issued on Tuesday. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Christine O. Avendaño, Starlene Portilla and Yvinn Borondia

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TAGS: Bureau of Immigration, detained Australian nun, Patricia Fox
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