The Philippine Justice Department on Monday defied President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to deport an Australian nun, saying immigration officials had no legal basis to expel her because she had joined street protests against his government’s war on drugs.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) had given Sister Patricia Fox, 71, until June 18 to leave the Philippines, but the nun had filed an appeal and vowed to exhaust all means to fight her deportation. She elevated the case to the justice department.
“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers – including visas – when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a resolution, according to his office.
“What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down. The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” Guevarra said.
The secretary noted that while Philippine immigration laws gave the BI broad powers in regulating the entry and stay of foreigners in the country, visa forfeiture was not among those powers.
“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers –including visas – when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra said.
Last month, a group of lawmakers filed a bill seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Fox in recognition of her “selfless service to poor Filipinos.”
Immigration agents detained Fox in April for allegedly violating the terms of her religious visa. She was found to have engaged in activities that apparently offended Duterte, including attending rallies that questioned his war on drugs that has left thousands dead.
She was the second foreign activist ordered out of the country. Authorities deported an Italian activist blacklisted by the government.
Mark Navales in Cotabato City contributed to this report.