Panelo on Patricia Fox: Good deeds do not exempt you from the law

MANILA, Philippines – Doing good does not exempt you from the laws of the land you're staying in.

This was the message of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo as Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox left the Philippines on Saturday, November 3.

"We wish Sister Fox well in her travel and we thank her for whatever good deeds she has performed during her stay in the country. Such acts however cannot exempt her from the punishment imposed by law as a consequence of her wrongdoing," Panelo said in a statement on Saturday.

He added, "The law may be harsh but it is the law and obedience thereto excuses no one from compliance therewith."

Fox left the Philippines on Saturday afternoon after her tourist visa expired. She was ordered deported in July after she was spotted joining rallies critical of the government. (EXPLAINER: Patricia Fox case puts spotlight on PH immigration laws)

She appealed the deportation before the Department of Justice, but as the case remained pending, her missionary visa was rejected for renewal and had been downgraded to a tourist visa.

"Our advice to Sister Fox is to follow the law whether here or elsewhere. Otherwise, the law of cause and effect will operate against her, as it did in this particular instance," Panelo said.

Fox earlier contested the accusation against her. She said she was not protesting to fight the government, but to promote the human rights of Filipino farmers, workers, and indigenous peoples. (READ: Crackdown on missionaries fuels dictatorship fears)

"I am a missionary and I happen to be assigned here in the Philippines. So, as part of my missionary work, I call on the injustices I found here which include imprisonment of farmers or members of indigenous communities for trumped-up charges," Fox said in a counter-affidavit she signed in May to contest her deportation. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.