Australian nun Patricia Fox asks DOJ to reverse Immigration's leave order

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — The camp of Australian nun Patricia Fox on Friday petitioned the Justice Department to reinstate her missionary visa and let her stay in the country.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI), which is under the Justice Department, forfeited Fox's visa on April 23 and ordered her to leave by the end of May. The bureau on Wednesday denied Fox's appeal.

"With all due respect, the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation decided a question of substance and procedure which is not in accord with the constitution, the law and jurisprudence, and gravely abused its discretion when it cancelled the Missionary Visa of the Petitioner and downgraded it to a Temporary Visitor's Visa," Fox's legal counsel, the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) said in a 24-page petition for review.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra gave the BI 10 days to comment on Fox's petition, and submit all records related to the case. Fox, meanwhile, has five days to respond once she receives the BI's comment.

Guevarra also clarified Fox has until June 18 to stay in the country, stressing that the 30-day period given by the BI for her to leave stopped when she filed a motion for reconsideration.

"Upon denial of said motion for reconsideration, petitioner had a remaining period of 25 days from May 24, 2018, the date when she was served a copy of the order denying her motion for reconsideration," Guevarra said in his order on Friday.

But lawyer Katherine Panguban said the petition should put the BI's order on hold, asking both BI and DOJ to follow the rules.

"Nakaapela po tayo so... hindi po maaraing paalisin pa ng BI si Sister Patricia Fox (we have filed an appeal so the BI cannot ask Sister Patricia Fox to leave)," she told reporters after the filing of the petition.

The 71-year-old nun said she wants to continue her mission in the country.

"Syempre ang wish ko ay ituloy ang mission work dito kasama ng mga mahihirap at sana yan ang resulta ng (petition) ko (my wish is to be able to continue my mission work together with the poor and I hope this will be the result of my petition)," Fox said.

NULP President Edre Olalia said Fox's case "is both a litmus test and emblematic of how the present government treats sincere advocates of basic reforms for the poor and oppressed," and is also "a barometer of how the law serves as a tool of or excuse for repression to silence well-meaning critics and dissenters."

Fox's defense

Fox's camp on Friday maintained that her alleged participation in political activities is not a ground for cancellation of visa under the law.

"Even assuming, without necessarily admitting, that the Petitioner participated in rallies and fact finding missions, such participation did not violate the terms for the issuance of her Missionary Visa," her camp stressed.

Ordering her to leave the country based on her alleged participation in rallies also violates her right to freedom of speech and assembly, "a right universally recognized and accorded to all, regardless of citizenship," her camp added.

They added Fox was just exercising her freedom of expression and promoting the protection of the rights of the poor and needy, consistent with her tasks as a religious missionary.

Fox was therefore denied due process, her lawyers said, arguing that the BI did not give her the chance to defend herself prior to the forfeiture of her visa.

BI stands by leave order

Fox was accused of engaging in partisan political activities, which the government deemed as a violation of the terms of her stay in the country.

In junking her motion for reconsideration on Wednesday the BI dismissed Fox's claim of lack of due process and that there was no evidence to allegations she engaged in political activities.

Authorities said she was seen in a rally organized by Kilusang Mayo Uno and Gabriela at the Coca-Cola distribution center in Davao City on April 9.

President Rodrigo Duterte admitted on April 18 that he ordered the probe on Fox, which led to her one-day detention for questioning.