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Sister Fox appeals denial of missionary visa extension

MANILA, Philippines – Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox on Monday, September 17, appealed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) order refusing to extend her missionary visa in the Philippines.

Fox appeared at the BI at around 2 pm on Monday along with her lawyer, Jobert Pahilga, to file a 6-page appeal against the BI order released to the media on Sunday, September 16.

Fox is the 72-year-old Australian missionary nun whom the BI ordered deported for allegedly engaging in political activities. It was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who had Fox investigated, prompting the BI to expel her from the Philippines, where she has lived for 27 years.

Fox's deportation is under appeal before the Department of Justice (DOJ), but her missionary visa already expired on September 5. Fox applied to renew her missionary visa, but the BI denied her request on September 13.

In her motion for reconsideration, Fox sought to debunk the BI's two grounds for denying an extension of her missionary visa:

Fox's arguments

Fox said in her motion that the MOA between the BI and the CBCP "did not preclude the extension or renewal" of missionary visas "for another 10 years."

She pointed out that the BI has extended her missionary visa several times since she arrived in the Philippines 27 years ago.

She cited the expiry of her missionary visa on July 31, 2013, after which the BI downgraded it to a tourist visa. Her tourist visa was extended several times, until she applied to convert her tourist visa into a missionary visa. 

The BI converted her tourist visa into a missionary visa on September 5, 2014. Fox said this means she "was given a new or fresh period of 10 years from 2014 or until 2024 to stay in the country, only that she needs to renew it or apply for extension every two or three years after the latest approval of her missionary visa or the extension thereof."

On the BI's second basis to deny her visa extension, Fox said that the deportation order against her "is not yet final and executory" because it is under appeal with the DOJ.

"Hence, the decision to grant or deny the application for extension or renewal of her missionary visa should not be based and hinge on the order of deportation," she said in her motion.

Fox: I'm not really afraid

Fox's lawyer, Pahilga, said their camp is "not positive" that their appeal against her deportation will not be granted.

"Medyo hindi kami positibo na maga-grant kasi it was the President himself na nagsabi na gusto niyang paalisin si Sister Pat (We're not positive that it will be granted because it was the President himself who said he wants to expel Sister Pat)," Pahilga told reporters. 

"Sa tingin namin, hanggang si Presidente Duterte ang nakaupo eh mahihirapan si Sister Pat na makakuha ng extension ng kanyang missionary visa (We think that until President Duterte is in power, Sister Pat will find it difficult to get an extension of her missionary visa)," he added.

Still, Pahilga said, their camp "will still avail of all the legal remedies."

Asked if she is afraid, Fox said: "I'm not really afraid. We just keep doing everything we can in terms of the legal process."

A lawyer by training, Fox remains hopeful about the legal process – especially after a Bulacan court ruled on Monday that retired Major General Jovito Palparan is guilty of the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.

Fox, who speaks Filipino, said on Monday, "With what happened in Bulacan kanina (a while ago), may pag-asa rin – doon sa kay General Palparan – may pag-asa rin (there is hope – with what happened to General Palparan – there is hope), that something might happen." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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