AN Australian missionary, whom the Bureau of Immigration (BI) arrested late Monday for “attending protest rallies and engaging in political activities,” was released on Tuesday.
Sister Patricia Fox was tagged an “undesirable alien” (a person who is not a citizen of the country, and who the government considers should not be allowed to stay in the country.) , her lawyer Jobert Pahilga said.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, however, approved the recommendation of the BI legal division headed by lawyer Arvin Cesar Santos for Sister Patricia Fox to be released but for further investigation after it was established that the Australian nun was holding a valid missionary visa and, thus, was a properly documented alien.
Fox submitted her passport and other immigration documents showing that she was issued her missionary visa on October 15, 2017 and that her visa was valid until Sept. 9 of this year.
In a two-page Note with Recommendation to Morente, Santos said that while Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions of farmers in the past, she was not part of any similar activity at the time Immigration operatives served her the mission order on Monday.
Santos said that Fox was not covered by inquest proceedings as these apply only to aliens arrested after being caught flagrantly violating immigration laws.
He said that under Immigration rules, Fox should undergo preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her before the bureau’s board of commissioners.
Immigration intelligence officers went to Fox’s house at 2 p.m. in Quezon City on Monday and invited her to verify her immigration papers.
The Immigration bureau confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Fox was being held on the strength of a “mission order” Commissioner Jaime Morente issued “after Fox was reported to have violated the conditions of her stay by attending protest rallies and engaging in political activities.”
It said that Fox appeared before the BI Special Inquest Prosecutor and was required to present and submit her passport for further verification.
Human rights groups condemned the arrest of Fox.
“[We decry] the illegal arrest and detention of Sister Patricia ‘Pat’ Fox, NDS, a missionary of the international Roman congregation of women Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, from the Congregacion de Notre Dame de Sion (Congregation of Our Lady of Sion),” Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) said in a statement.
“The arrest of Fox, as well as the other forms of threats against human rights advocates from the international community, are clear and blatant forms of violation on the exercise of people’s right to extend international solidarity to victims of rights violations,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“Fox is deprived of her right to due process, to information on why she is being arrested and to direct access to human rights organizations and legal counsels. She has been serving peasant communities in the country for decades, and thus her missionary work is true to the values of genuine community service,” she said.
Farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also slammed Fox’s arrest and branded it “a clear harassment against land reform advocates.”
Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP, said: “We condemn this crackdown of peasant activists. Under Duterte, wholesale and unabated arrest of farmers, peasant leaders and land reform advocates continue.”
The group claimed that Fox was an agrarian reform advocate who joined the activities of groups, including the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo, as part of her missionary work in the country since the 1990s.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi de Jesus demanded that Fox be released without conditions, stating that Fox’s arrest was “a very loose pretext by the Duterte regime” for arresting anyone who stands up for human rights. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL, GLEE JALEA, CATHERINE MODESTO