MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine immigration bureau has turned down an Australian nun’s appeal for the reversal of an order revoking her missionary visa after the president complained about her joining opposition rallies and ordered her to leave the country.
Immigration chief Jaime Morente said Wednesday that his bureau has sent a letter to Sister Patricia Fox’s lawyer that advised her of steps needed for her to comply with the order to leave the Philippines in 30 days.
“This order is final and executory. We will not entertain any further motion for reconsideration,” Morente said in a statement.
Fox’s lawyer, Jobert Pahilga, however, said she would not leave the country before exhausting all legal remedies, including an appeal to the justice department.
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President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at his critics, especially those who have raised questions about his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. His administration barred a critical Italian politician, Giacomo Filibeck, from entering the country last month.
The 71-year-old Fox is a coordinator of a Roman Catholic order for nuns called Notre Dame de Sion and has been working for the Filipino poor for almost 30 years. She has joined rallies against Duterte and his government, which has been criticized for waging a brutal war on illegal drugs that left thousands of mostly urban poor suspects dead and for stifling dissent.
Pahilga argued that Fox did not engage in political activities but joined gatherings of farmers and tribal people to help protect their rights in actions that were part of her religious mission to promote justice and human rights. He said she expects the immigration bureau to follow the rule of law and “not arrest or forcibly deport her.”
Fox “will not depart the country as she finds it necessary to exhaust all available legal remedies to challenge the cancellation of her missionary visa,” Pahilga said. “It has far-reaching implications to other foreigners sojourning in the Philippines especially those engaged in missionary or solidarity works with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.”
Fox’s visa was officially revoked because she worked outside a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila where she had said she would confine her work. Her actions violated the terms of her missionary visa, Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said.
Fox is facing a separate complaint for engaging in political activities, Sandoval said, adding that if she is found guilty, she could face deportation and be included in a blacklist that would prohibit her from entering the Philippines even as a tourist.
Fox said last month that she did not regret getting involved in social issues and was grateful for people who gave her support.
“This isn’t just my fight. It’s like an attack … on the whole church, the role of the church, the role of foreign missionaries, the role of human rights workers,” Fox told reporters.