An Australian nun who was ordered to leave the Philippines because she had joined street protests against President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday she would appeal her case amid threats of being deported.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday affirmed with finality its decision last month ordering Sister Patricia Fox, 71, out of the Philippines, where she has been helping the poor during the past 27 years on a missionary visa.
The immigration bureau had given her 30 days to leave the country, and that expired Thursday. But Fox’s lawyer said she would file a “petition for review” before the Justice Department.
“If not challenged, (the order) will have far-reaching implications to other missionaries similarly situated with Sister Pat as the BI can now rule and decide what activity is considered political or not,” lawyer Jobert Pahilga said, using the nun’s nickname.
Fox believes that she still enjoys the freedom of expression and that her appearance in assemblies or rallies calling for the protection of basic human rights were simply an exercise of that right, Pahilga said in a statement.
“They are consistent and in accordance with her mission … to promote peace, social justice and human rights,” Pahilga said.
Duterte had personally ordered the nun’s arrest and deportation last month. She was briefly held but was later freed.
Duterte had said that he took “full responsibility” for Fox's arrest. While freedom of expression was “unlimited,” it only applies to Filipinos and not to foreigners, he said.
Fox, as a foreigner, did not have the right to “insult us every time you open your mouth,” Duterte told reporters.
The nun was the second foreigner subjected to Manila’s strict immigration screening. A day before she was detained, Italian citizen Giacomo Filibeck, a deputy-secretary general of the Party of European Socialists, was immediately deported after landing in the central city of Cebu.
Filibeck apparently has been blacklisted by authorities for allegedly joining protests.
The politically influential Catholic Church had sought to intervene on Fox’s behalf, but Duterte has had little respect for the religious hierarchy.
He has been infuriated by the church, whose bishops he has described as, in his words, “full of shit” for questioning his policies, including his war on drugs that rights group say has left thousands dead since he became president in 2016.
The bureau last week accused Fox of engaging in political activities and rejected her argument that the government violated her rights to due process.
The rights group Karapatan lambasted the bureau for its ruling, saying it reflected its alleged propensity “to deny due process to foreign missionaries and human rights defenders” on Duterte’s whim.
The order “is an act of reprisal by a vengeful, paranoid, insecure and anti-people regime that knows no other way to hide its crimes but to further infringe on people’s civil liberties and political rights,” Karapatan head Cristina Palabay said.
She said Duterte was moving to stifle voices critical of his almost 2-year-old regime. Duterte’s spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
Felipe Villamor contributed to this report from Manila.