Senators send mixed reaction on deportation move vs Fox
“Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh, but it is the law).”
Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said this on Wednesday when sought for comment on the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) deportation order against Australian nun Patricia Fox for allegedly violating the conditions of her stay in the Philippines.
Asked if he supports the BI’s move, Sotto, in a text message, said: “If that’s the law, no one is above the law.”
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero called the BI’s order “unfortunate” but said the grant, denial or withdrawal of a visa is “discretionary on the part of any country.”
“I am hopeful that Sister Fox can return again soon and this misunderstanding can be clarified and resolved,” Escudero, member of the Senate majority bloc, said in a separate text message.
Asked also if the BI’s order against the nun was in order, Escudero said, it was not a question of right or wrong “but a question of a country having the prerogative to grant or deny a visa and for the applicant to have remedies in case of denial or withdrawal.”
Escudero recalled that he himself had been denied US visa application in spite of the fact that he was already admitted to a US school.
“I had to appeal it, same is true here…” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, pointed out that the Bill of Rights under the equal protection clause in the Constitution does not distinguish between foreigners and citizens of the Philippines.
‘However, there is an existing jurisprudence that allows the executive branch through the Bureau of Immigration to impose limitations on certain activities of foreigners that are inimical to the interest of the state, and that is what the government has applied in the case of Sister Patricia Fox,” Lacson said in another text message.
“Before condemning the Duterte administration, it is prudent to understand the facts surrounding the issue involving the Australian nun,” he added.
Lacson said the Filipinos should back the BI’s move if allegations against Fox are proven true.
But opposition senators — Francis “Kiko” Panglinan, Risa Hontiveros and Bam Aquino— lambasted the move against the nun saying this is another harassment by the government.
“This deportation of a 71-year-old, ailing nun is most deplorable. The act is not a sign of strength it is in fact a sign of weakness,” Pangilinan said.
“Harassing rights advocates and faith-based organizations and individuals may succeed in the short run but it will eventually fail. Gestapo-like tactics will only strengthen the people’s resolve to resist. Hitler’s 1,000 years of the Third Reich ended just after a few years,” he added.
Hontiveros branded as “outrageous and unbelievable” the forfeiture of Fox’s missionary order.
“It is an act that promotes further the climate of impunity in the country rather than secures our sovereignty,” she said in a separate statement.
“How can a 71-year-old Australian nun, who has been doing missionary work in the Philippines for the last 27 years, be a threat to our country?”
Hontiveros expressed disbelief over the government’s perception that the nun is more of a threat to the country than China; an alleged big-time drug lord, Peter Lim; and certain police officials tagged in the killing of a former mayor in Albuera, Leyte.
“This cannot stand,” she said.
She then called on the BI to review and overturn its decision to forfeit the missionary visa of Fox and its order for her to leave the country.
“I would like to believe that the Philippines is still a country governed by democracy and political tolerance, and not ruled by impunity,” she added.
For his part, Aquino said he would again file a resolution to investigate possible abuses in the deportation of foreign nationals.
“Now, more than ever, we need our laws to protect the rights of people willing to stand up to power and speak out against injustices,” he said in a statement.
Aquino noted that during the 16th Congress, he filed Senate Resolution No. 260 to ensure that the freedom of expression of foreign nationals is not curtailed. /jpv
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