Philippine Lawmakers Move to Offer Citizenship to Australian Nun

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato City, Philippines
180530-PH-Australian-1000.jpg Australian Catholic nun Sister Patricia Fox is greeted by supporters after filing documents at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila, May, 4, 2018.

A group of Philippine lawmakers filed a bill Wednesday seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to an Australian nun who has been ordered deported by President Rodrigo Duterte for joining protests questioning his drug war.

The seven-member legislators, belonging to Makabayan (Nationalist) bloc at the House of Representatives, filed House Bill No. 7806 offering citizenship to Sister Patricia Fox, 71, in recognition of her “selfless service to poor Filipinos.”

"For 27 years, Sister Pat lived with and served the farmers, indigenous peoples and other marginalized people in the communities,” the bill said.  “By living with the poor and oppressed, Sister Pat has come to understand, experience and embrace the culture and the struggle of the poor Filipino majority.”

Among those who signed and filed the proposed legislation were left-leaning members of the House. But the bill is unlikely to pass, with Duterte controlling a super majority of the 290-member Congress.

The immigration bureau had given Fox until last week to leave the Philippines, but the nun had filed an appeal and had vowed to exhaust all means to fight her deportation.

“Actually I feel very privileged that they would consider filing a bill that would make me a citizen. Because that makes me feel very accepted,” Fox told reporters Wednesday. “And that has been how I always felt here, very accepted.”

Father Jerome Secillano, a spokesman for the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said missionary work does not only involve church assignments but also covers field duties such as meeting members of communities.

“Church work does not only involve the pulpit. Also part of our mission is immersion in communities. It is part of our job to have concrete works,” he said.

Immigration agents detained Fox last month for allegedly violating 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 had also deported an Italian activist blacklisted by the government.

Dennis Jay Santos from Davao City contributed to this report.


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