Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the expulsion of an Australian nun and gave her a month to leave the country, after immigration authorities had arrested her for allegedly joining rallies against his government.
Sister Patricia Fox, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, has been a longtime resident of the Philippines where she has worked closely with the poor. But intelligence agents had photographed the 71-year-old attending anti-government street protests early this month.
She was the second foreign activist ordered out of the country. Authorities had recently deported an Italian official of the Party of European Specialists upon arrival at an airport in the central Philippines.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) head Jaime Morente said Fox “was found to have engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa.” Morente did not explain the nature of those activities, but said Fox was ordered to leave the country in 30 days after receiving the order.
“We stand by the Bureau of Immigration’s order to forfeit Sister Patricia Fox‘s privilege of holding a missionary visa and to leave the Philippines,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said in statement.
Duterte had said that he ordered Fox’s arrest, and that he would take “full responsibility” for any public backlash.
Roque said Fox had been given the right to properly respond at a hearing by the immigration bureau, but officials found out that she had engaged in activities that breached the conditions of her visa.
Fox, in a statement, thanked the Filipinos for all the learning she said she had gained while working for almost three decades in the Philippines.
“I may lose my right to be in the Philippines, but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories,” Fox said, expressing hope that Manila would reconsider its decision.
The influential Catholic Church has often locked horns with Duterte, questioning his violent methods in his administration’s anti-drug war in which thousands have been killed since he became president in 2016.
Outrageous, unbelievable, legislators say
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who has been among those actively questioning Duterte’s drug war, said ordering the expulsion of a nun who had been working to help the poor here during the past 27 years was “outrageous, unbelievable.”
“It is an act that promotes further the climate of impunity in the country rather than secures our sovereignty,” Hontiveros said.
“Is the Duterte government saying that Sister Patricia is more dangerous than alleged big-time drug lord Peter Lim? So we deport nuns while we let known and self-confessed drug lords roam free?” she said.
Shortly after he became president, Duterte had carried around a supposed list of politicians, judges, police and military officers whom, he said, were involved in the illegal-drug trade. At least three of those on the list have been gunned down by the police, including one who had surrendered but was bizarrely slain while in detention.
Lim was a suspected high-profile drug lord who was one of those named by Duterte. But he managed to have a meeting with Duterte at the presidential palace in 2016, with Duterte only giving him a reprimand.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Duterte’s ally, said he found nothing wrong with the deportation order against Fox.
“I think that is within the power of our immigration bureau. Especially if the foreigner has violated some of our laws,” he said.
On April 17, immigration agents detained Fox for allegedly being an undesirable alien. She was picked up from her apartment and then freed the next day after her case gained traction on social media.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.