MANILA, Philippines – Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox, 72, said the Bureau of Immigration (BI) "prejudged" her case when it ordered her deportation by citing President Rodrigo Duterte's "false and unfounded" statements against her.
Fox made this argument in a motion for reconsideration filed at the BI on Monday, July 23, to appeal a BI resolution dated July 19. One of her lawyers, Jobert Pahilga, emailed on Tuesday, July 24, a copy of her motion.
"Reading the Resolution of the Honorable Office would readily show that it is based on one primordial consideration – the false and unfounded statement of the President that the Respondent is supposedly foul-mouthed who has criticized the policies of the Duterte administration even when there is no evidence to support his claim," Fox said through her lawyers.
"The statement in the Resolution that since the President has already made manifest his intention, the Honorable Office has no choice but to abide by it, shows that it has already prejudged the case," her camp added. (Read Fox's motion for reconsideration below.)
In its July 19 resolution, the BI noted that Duterte "has already announced in several media interviews and speeches that Fox is an undesirable alien by joining political rallies." By making such declarations, Duterte "has exercised his plenary power to expel or deport an alien for being undesirable," the BI said.
But aside from prejudging her case, the BI used a "purely speculative" basis for deporting the Australian nun, said her lawyers. They said it was "based on the unsubstantiated report of a certain Intel Agent Melody Penelope B. Gonzales."
Her lawyers also said her activities were "not illegal" but were "a valid exercise of her right to free speech and peaceful assembly." Fox's camp said, "The alleged 'political activities' are consistent with her mission by which her missionary visa was granted to her in the first place."
Fox was the 4th foreign missionary that the BI ordered deported in recent weeks, the first 3 being Methodist missionaries. The BI issued deportation orders against them because they all allegedly joined political activities.
On Tuesday, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David defended Fox from criticism that she is an "undesirable alien."
David wrote: "She's not a drug smuggler or trader. She's not into child trafficking. She's not part of a foreign cyber scamming group posing as a call center company. She's not part of a foreign company that's into open-pit mining. She's not an arms dealer or a terrorist. She just happens to care for the poor in this country. Does she deserve to be deported as an 'undesirable alien'?" – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.