Missionary works of Fox are beyond definition of online dictionaries—lawyers
Australian nun Patricia Fox is doing her missionary work not in the manner defined in online dictionaries and Wikipedia but based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, her lawyers said in a petition for review filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday.
The 24-page page petition asked the DOJ to reverse the Bureau of Immigration’s decision downgrading her Missionary Visa to a Temporary Visitor’s Visa and ordering her to leave the country within 30 days.
Fox, a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, is one of the missionaries that arrived in the country in 1990 to serve as a missionary. Their work was endorsed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). As part of her work, she immersed with farmers and indigenous people and provided them with social services and teachings about peace, social justice and human rights.
However, Intelligence Officer Melody Penelope Gonzales, of the BI Davao Intelligence Field Unit, pointed out that based on an online dictionary and Wikipedia, the term “missionary” is a “teacher of religion or someone who spreads the faith in foreign lands while “apostolate work” is defined by Wikipedia as “an organization directed to serving and evangelizing the world.” Her report said the definition does not include giving support or involvement in assemblies and fact-finding missions.
Gonzales stressed that foreigners are prohibited from engaging in political activities citing, among others, Fox’s participation in the fact-finding mission on land distribution in Hacienda Luisita, a Facebook posts where she joined the solidarity fasting program calling for the release of political prisoners, condemning the killing of eight Lumads in South Cotabato, participated in a press conference calling to stop the killing of farmers.
The BI intelligence officer added that the missionary visa given to her was for missionary work limited only in Quezon City. The BI affirmed the recommendation and downgraded her visa. Fox filed a motion for reconsideration which was also denied.
In their petition for review, Fox, through her counsel, said she was denied her right to due process and the Immigration violated its own rules when she was not given a copy of the petition for the cancellation of her visa or given the opportunity to respond to the allegations against her.
The petition for review added that the supposed basis for the cancellation of her visa was “purely speculative.” For example, the photograph where Fox was holding a placard stating “Free all political prisoners” did not indicate the source, place, and context when it was taken, which are required by the rules on evidence.
“Technically, the statements contained in such report are mere allegations of wrongdoing and cannot be made a basis for the said cancellation and downgrading,” read the petition.
The petition also cited a Supreme Court case Domingo v. Scheer as they pointed out that even foreign nationals sojourning in the Philippines enjoys the right to freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble.
“When the Petitioner joins rallies and fact-finding missions and similar activities, she is not violating the law. She is merely exercising her right, and she can do so whether the same is part of her missionary work or not since such right is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution. She is afforded,” the petition stated.
They also pointed out that the definition of “missionary” and “apostolate” cited by the BI Intelligence was narrow.
“Petitioner has been faithfully accomplishing her role as missionary, spreading the faith not only by “teaching religion,” but by immersing herself with the poor.
Her presence in the Philippines is the truest meaning of what it means to be a missionary, to be with the poor, to listen to their anguish,” read the petition.
“Being with the poor, echoing the struggles of the poor is the heart of the apostolic work. It teaches the faith, not in abstract concepts but in daily human affairs, experiencing the wounds and struggles of the poor. One cannot be a missionary and teach the faith, without the poor at the center,” the petition stated. /jpv
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