Filipino bishops expressed their dismay over the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) order to deport the 71-year-old Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox on the grounds of being an undesirable alien and an alleged violator of her missionary visa.
In a Facebook post, Caloocan bishop Pablo Virgilio David criticized BI’s resolve on identifying Fox as an undesirable alien. He even included a photo of the smiling nun along with three children.
“She’s not a drug smuggler or trader. She’s not into child trafficking. She’s not part of a foreign cyber scamming group posing as a call center company,” he stated.
The bishop also emphasized how she neither works for a foreign company that’s into open pit mining nor is she involved in arms dealing and terrorism.
“She just happens to care for the poor in this country. Does she deserve to be deported as an “undesirable alien?” David wrote.
In an article from the official news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said the BI’s decision confirmed how the government is “systematically harassing people who criticize their policies.”
He added that the administration considers the nun a threat because of her defense on the rights of the poor and the marginalized Filipinos.
“This is a very sad development, this is really bad. I am ashamed of the government,” Bastes stated.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also stressed that it was Fox’s fact finding mission in Mindanao that brought her attention despite doing missionary work in the Philippines for 27 years.
“She has been serving our poor people for decades and this is how the government rewards her just because it is so insecure in what it is doing,” Pabillo said.
Pabillo also questioned the government’s interest in the nun’s fact finding mission.
“Why is it afraid of fact finding missions if its policies are good as it claims? This is another instance of creeping authoritarianism,” Pabillo noted.
Fox, through her legal counsel from the National Union for People’s Lawyers (NUPL) filed a motion for reconsideration on Monday, July 23 to hold off the BI’s decision.
The motion stated that her activities were not illegal but rather a valid exercise of her right to free speech and peaceful assembly.
The BI issued the deportation order on July 19 and indicated her name be included in the bureau’s blacklist that would bar her from coming back to the Philippines.
Fox’ lawyers claimed that the BI had “no choice” but to abide by President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks against her and that he had “already prejudged the case.”