“Sister Pat has the right to be accorded due process and equal protection of the law. She thus expects that the Bureau of Immigration would also follow the rule of law and their own procedure, and will not arrest or forcibly deport her, to give her the opportunity to appeal.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Australian missionary Patricia Fox is determined to assert her right to due process amid the Bureau of Immigration’s denial of her appeal to reinstate her missionary visa.
In a statement released May 23, the BI affirmed its order for Fox to leave the country. BI commissioner Jaime Morente said that the order is final and executory, adding that the BI will not entertain any further motion for reconsideration.
The missionary’s lawyers, however, asserted that the order is not immediately executory.
“Sister Pat is not precluded from filing an appeal to the Secretary of the Department of Justice,” her lawyers Jobert Pahilga, Maria Sol Taule and Katherine Panguban said in a statement.
Her lawyers said that under the BI’s Omnibus Rules of Procedure of 2015, an Order cancelling one’s visa becomes effective fifteen days after receipt of such Order, and is tolled by the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration and by the subsequent filing of an appeal.
“Sister Pat has the right to be accorded due process and equal protection of the law. She thus expects that the Bureau of Immigration would also follow the rule of law and their own procedure, and will not arrest or forcibly deport her, to give her the opportunity to appeal,” her lawyers further said.
The lawyers also said that Fox “finds it necessary to exhaust all available legal remedies to challenge the cancellation of her Missionary Visa, since it has far-reaching implications to other foreigners sojourning in the Philippines, especially those engaged in missionary or solidarity works with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.”
The BI, in its three-page order signed on May 17, claimed that Fox “acted beyond allowed activities under her visa by working outside of Barangay Amihan in Quezon City, the place where she claimed she would render her missionary work when she applied for her visa.” It added that “strict rules on evidence do not apply to immigration cases which are administrative proceedings requiring only the lowest quantum of evidence.”
Fox has asserted that her solidarity activities with the farmers, workers, indigenous peoples and the poor “are consistent and in accordance with her mission and the charism of the Sister of our Lady of Sion to promote peace, social justice, and human rights.” Her lawyers said these are covered by the constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble to which she, and other foreigners sojourning in the Philippines, are equally entitled to exercise.
Fox, 71, was taken into custody by officials of the BI on April 16 and eventually released her following strong condemnation from various sectors. The 30-day leave order issued against Sister Fox will lapse on May 25.
In a separate statement, human rights alliance Karapatan said the BI order is “an act of reprisal by a vengeful, paranoid, insecure and anti-people regime.”
On April 19, Duterte said that he ordered the investigation of Fox for “disorderly conduct.” The president also said that the 71-year-old nun — who spent 27 years of missionary work in the Philippines — has a “foul mouth.”
Before her arrest, Fox joined a fact-finding mission that investigated human rights violations in Mindanao.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said that participation in such investigations is not a crime but an exercise of humanitarianism and solidarity.
“What can be considered crimes are these schemes employed by the Duterte regime in its mad attempts to silence and stifle voices that articulate the plight of the poor in Philippines society,” Palabay said.