Malacañang on Friday, April 20, belied claims that 71-year-old Australian Catholic missionary Patricia Fox has not spoken at rallies she attended in the Philippines.
During a news briefing, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. presented a photo supposedly taken April 9, showing Fox holding a microphone during a protest.
“I heard the CBCP say that Sister Fox, although she attends rallies, has not spoken in rallies. Well, I now have a picture and this is taken April 9 in a rally organized by KMU and Gabriela partylist in front of Coca-Cola Davao City distribution center in Ulas, Davao City,” Roque said.
The Palace official was apparently referring to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which literally translates to May 1 Movement.
Fox, who has been living in the Philippines for 27 years as a missionary and as an advocate of farmers’ rights, was arrested by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers on Monday, April 16 at her home in Quezon City for alleged “illegal political activities” in the country.
She was released the following day. In a television interview, she denied participating in party politics.
The BI said Fox was released for further investigation “after it was established that the Australian nun holds a valid missionary visa and, thus…is a properly documented alien.”
“I am just telling the bishops, hindi po sinabi ni Sister Fox sa inyo ang buong katotohanan (She is not telling the whole truth). Ito po ang larawan (This is the picture),” Roque added.
The CBCP, however, has not issued a public statement claiming that Fox never took microphones at rallies.
Roque was likely referring to leftist lawmaker Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist, who earlier said: “Never in 27 years has Sister Pat been a speaker at any rally. Never in 27 years has she articulated anti-government statements.”
‘No crackdown on foreign critics’
Malacañang said there is no crackdown on foreigners who are critical of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Justifying the detention of Fox, Roque stressed that the law banning foreigners from participating in political activities in the Philippines also applies to supporters of the administration.
“Our law is clear: those in the Philippines are here because of our consent for them to be here, but they are not allowed to engage in any political activity,” Roque said on Thursday, April 19. “There’s no crackdown. It’s really the law. The law may be harsh, but such is the law.”
Immigration Operations Order SBM-2015-025 states that “foreign tourists are prohibited from engaging in any political activity as defined by law and jurisprudence such as joining, supporting, contributing or involving themselves in a rally, assembly, gathering, whether for or against the government.”