“As a Christian, believing that our mission is to bring God’s Kingdom to the here and now, I couldn’t help but to get involved both with projects, such as training in organic farming, to uplift the livelihood of the farmers, but also to advocate with them for their rights to land, livelihood, peace, justice and security, all universal human rights which the church sees as integral to her mission. It seems this is what has brought me into conflict with the Philippine Government.”
MANILA — Australian missionary Sister Patricia Anne Fox was surprised to know this morning that the Bureau of Immigration has ordered her to leave the Philippines. Fox said it was through the media that she heard of the decision and she and her lawyers have not yet received a copy.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has forfeited the missionary visa of Fox “due to her involvement in partisan political activities.” While the bureau said that Fox’s deportation case is pending before the BI Special Prosecutor, the BI has ordered Fox to leave the country within 30 days from receipt of the order.
A memorandum of the BI Intelligence Division claimed that Fox has “violated the conditions of the missionary visa by performing unauthorized activities outside and beyond her supposed religious and apostolic work in Quezon City.”
In a statement, the 71-year-old nun maintained that her advocacy is consistent with her mission. “As a Christian, believing that our mission is to bring God’s Kingdom to the here and now, I couldn’t help but to get involved both with projects, such as training in organic farming, to uplift the livelihood of the farmers, but also to advocate with them for their rights to land, livelihood, peace, justice and security, all universal human rights which the church sees as integral to her mission. It seems this is what has brought me into conflict with the Philippine Government.”
It was in 1990 when the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion sent Fox as a missionary to the Philippines.
Fox recalled it took a while before she became a bit inculturated but the people in the rural areas were so patient with her. “It was through them that I came to learn some of the basic issues which caused their poverty: lack of their own lands, control of markets, dependence on pesticides,” Fox said.
During her stay with the indigenous peoples, Fox said she “learnt how the mountains are their supermarkets and pharmacies, how they were excited to have their own schools which taught sustainable agriculture but also preserved their culture and about how large mining and logging corporations as well as plantations were threatening the life and livelihood of these rural people.”
When she lived in the city, Fox said she came to know the situation of the workers and their lack of job security which is now happening in other countries as well.
“I am still hoping for a chance to explain how I see my mission as a religious sister and maybe the decision can be reconsidered.”
“Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful to all those Filipinos that I call my friends and for all those from both church and sectors who have supported me through this time. I may lose my right to be in the Philippines but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories,” Fox said.
Jobert Pahilga, one of Fox’s lawyers, argued the charge that Sister Pat as an Undesirable Alien has no basis in fact and in law.
Pahilga said the order to cancel Fox’s visa was issued without due process. “Sister Pat has the right to be heard even when she is a foreigner as everyone, Filipino citizen or not, is accorded that right by the Constitution especially since she was already admitted to the country and granted missionary visa,” Pahilga said.
Fox will file a motion for reconsideration with the BI. She will also submit a counter affidavit to answer the charges hurled against her.
Used as evidence against Fox are documents of her participation in several activities such as fact-finding mission on land distribution in Hacienda Luisita in September 2013, solidarity fasting to free all political prisoners in December 2016, solidarity program at the Davao del Norte Provincial Jail on April 7, 2018, among others.
Pahilga further said, “Offhand, the documents submitted by BI Intelligence Division did not show that sister Pat was engaged in anti-government activities but are consistent with her missionary work of promoting peace, social justice and human rights.”