Philippine government restores missionary visa of Australian nun facing deportation charges
Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox has been allowed to stay in the Philippines after the Department of Justice (DOJ) overturned the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) order to revoke her visa for allegedly taking part in political protests.
According to Coconuts Manila, the DOJ decided to nullify the immigration bureau's order because it had no legal basis.
'Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers—including visas—when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,' Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement, as reported by Coconuts Manila.
Fox was arrested in April and was ordered to leave the country by the end of May for her alleged participation in 'partisan political activities.'
President Rodrigo Duterte said in April that he had ordered the immigration bureau to conduct an investigation into the 71-year-old nun.
The nun, who has lived in the Philippines for nearly three decades, has advocated for the rights of farmers, the urban poor and indigenous people.
Despite the reversal of the immigration bureau's order, presidential spokesman Harry Roque maintained that Fox still has to face deportation charges.
Roque argued that the DOJ only upheld the nun's missionary visa 'without prejudice to the deportation proceedings.'
The justice department stated that Fox may stay in the country and carry out her missionary activities until the expiration of her visa in September or until a decision is made on her deportation proceedings.
'The issue in the deportation proceedings is, was she involved in political activities?' Roque asked, according to UCA News.
Guevarra stated that Fox is still facing proceedings to determine if the nun's activities can justify the cancellation of her visa. The justice secretary said that Fox's case will be returned to the immigration bureau.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo expressed concern that 'threats against Sister Fox still exist' despite the restoration of her visa. He said that the government should immediately withdraw the deportation charges against Fox and allow her to carry out her work 'without conditions.'
Fox said that she intends to renew her missionary visa before it expires in September. She said that she would continue her missionary work with poor communities in the Philippines because it is the 'mandate of the church.'
'That's the teaching of the church, to do missionary work. I'm not doing anything wrong anyway,' Fox said, according to UCA News.