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Let Sister Fox stay, political prisoners urge gov’t

Sister Patricia Fox–INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

A group of political prisoners on Sunday called on the Philippine government to allow Sister Patricia Fox, the Australian nun it earlier ordered deported, to remain in the country to continue her missionary work among marginalized Filipinos.

Inmates at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City and Taguig City Jail became the latest group to throw their support behind the embattled nun, whose missionary visa has been revoked by the Bureau of Immigration for her supposed engaging in political activities.

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“We therefore join Sister Pat in this fight against the government’s political persecution of church people and foreign nationals who support the people’s aspiration for land, jobs, living wage and other democratic rights,” the group said in a statement.

They said the years that the 71-year-old missionary spent in the country had been for advocating for the rights of marginalized sectors, particularly farmers and indigenous peoples — “something that those in government have never bothered to do.”

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‘Persecuting foreigners’

The group cited the “irony” of the government’s penchant for “persecuting foreigners” who were helping advance the struggle of the poor.

“Foreign investors, on the other hand, who come in to plunder the country’s natural resources and exploit the country’s cheap labor are being welcomed with open arms,” they said.

But President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday defended his administration’s decision to cancel the visa of Fox, saying he was just implementing an immigration order.

The President said Circular SBM 2015-025 issued by then Immigration Commissioner Salvador Mison limits the political exercise of tourists in the country.

“Did you read the circular about it? That order that tourists are not allowed to participate in protests for or against [the country], isn’t it there?” the President said.

Sen. Leila de Lima, who was justice secretary when the circular was issued, has joined supporters who have condemned the Duterte administration for the expulsion order against the nun.

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“The deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, a human rights defender who lawfully entered and stayed in our country under a missionary visa, says a lot about the state of democracy in our country,” she said in a statement posted on the Senate
website on April 26.

De Lima said it was “clear that, as things are currently being run, the rule of law bows to the will of a tyrant.”

‘Law not mine’

“But, more than that … it clearly shows the bias of this administration against foreigners who defend human rights, and in favor of foreigners who care nothing for it,” she added.

The President, however, remained unfazed.

“Who signed it? Whose signature was there? It was De Lima’s,” he said.

“That law was not mine. I only followed it,” he said.

He said he did not intend to revoke the circular.

“That’s what I used. The one who signed it is already in jail. She even went there ahead of the tourist,” he added.

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TAGS: Australian missionary, Australian nun, Patricia Fox, political prisoners
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