Australian nun permitted to remain in Philippines after deportation scare

19 June 2018

Australian nun permitted to remain in Philippines after deportation scare

The Philippine Justice Department has nullified an order to deport Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox.

Sister Fox’s visa was revoked by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration on the basis of alleged political activity.

However, the Justice Department granted her appeal just hours before the 71-year-old nun was due to leave the country.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally ordered the investigation of Sister Fox for “illegal political activities”.

The Bureau of Immigration arrested her in April after she took part in an international fact-finding mission to the Philippine island of Mindanao that followed reports of local farmers being tortured and killed.

Sister Fox subsequently had her missionary visa revoked and was ordered to leave the country within 30 days.

The Secretary of Justice, Menardo Guevarra, said that the order expelling Sister Fox was “without legal basis” because the Bureau of Immigration does not explicitly have the power to revoke the visa.

“What the [Bureau] did in this case is beyond what the law provides — that is why it has to be struck down,” Mr Guevarra said.

Sister Fox said that she was relieved, but may still face deportation as the Bureau of Immigration will review its case. Until then, however, Mr Guevarra has said that “Sister Fox may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines.”

Having lived and worked in the Philippines for several decades, Sister Fox was grateful for the reprieve.

“I’ve been here a long time now and I’ve got very fond of the people here,” she said.

“I find a lot of purpose in what I’m doing here, so I would like to continue.”

The Roman Catholic Church, an influential institution in the Philippines, is showing increasing opposition to extrajudicial killings under the Duterte government.

Three priests who criticised the crackdown have been killed since December, which coincided with Mr Duterte’s verbal attacks on the Catholic Church.

In April Mr Duterte said: “It was not the military who arrested … the Catholic nun from Australia. It was upon my orders, implemented by the Bureau of Immigration, and I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident.”

He also said: “You are a foreigner, who are you? You do not have the right to criticise us. Do not insult us every time you open your mouth.”