BI detains Australian nun for 'attending protests'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday said it arrested an Australian nun for "attending protest rallies and engaging in political activities."

By supposedly taking part in these protests, Sister Patricia Fox, a missionary of the Our Lady of Sion, "violated the conditions of her stay" in the country, the BI said in a statement.

The 71-year-old nun was apprehended Monday on orders of BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Fox was arrested Monday afternoon by six Immigration officials at their mission house in Quezon City and was later detained at the BI Intelligence Division in Intramuros, Manila.

Her legal counsel Jobert Pahilga said the fiscal in charge of the inquest recommended her release, provided she produce her passport, which is currently at a travel agency arranging her trip back to Australia in May.

Fox submitted her passport on Tuesday, said the BI, an agency under the Department of Justice.

"The BI Special Prosecutor will then submit her findings and recommendations whether to file the necessary charges or release Fox for further investigation," the bureau added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Fox's case "has nothing to do with her being a nun, nor with her personal advocacies."

"But like any other foreigner enjoying the privilege of staying in our country, she has to obey and comply with our laws," he added.

Various groups staged a protest Tuesday, condemning Fox's arrest and calling for her immediate release. They said it is part of the government's crackdown against critics and human rights defenders.

Patricia Fox, Giacomo Filibeck

According to the CBCP, Fox recently joined the International Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao. In 2013, she was also detained for joining protests in Hacienda Luisita but was released without charges.

The CBCP said the Australian nun has been working in the Philippines for 27 years helping farmers and indigenous peoples. She is also a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Fox's arrest follows the detention and deportation of Party of European Socialists Deputy Secretary General Giacomo Filibeck on Sunday, also for allegedly violating the conditions of his stay.

Filibeck was part of the human rights delegation last October 2017, where members of the European Union denounced the killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war against drugs.

The BI has previously warned foreigners against joining rallies. In 2013, it deported a Canadian student and Dutch national for participating in an anti-government protest during then President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address.

Under Philippine Immigration Law of 1940, the Commissioner of Immigration can order the arrest and deportation of any foreigner who "believes in, advises, advocates or teaches the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Philippines, or of constituted law and authority or who disbelieves in or is opposed to organized government," among other violations.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos, Ver Marcelo, and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.