Sister Patricia Fox 'more Filipino' than most, says Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox is more Filipino than most of us.

This was the message Vice President Leni Robredo gave, after Fox bid farewell to the Philippines on Saturday, November 3. Fox had been doing missionary work among farmers, laborers, and urban poor in the country for almost 3 decades. (READ: Sister Patricia Fox to Duterte: Listen to the oppressed)

"Nakakalungkot kasi ito iyong isang tao na hindi naman Pilipino pero inialay iyong kanyang buhay for 27 years para tulungan iyong pinakamahihirap nating mga kababayan…. Talagang babad na babad [sa komunidad] at nakakalungkot na pinaalis siya dito sa atin…. Parang mas Pilipino pa siya kaysa sa marami sa atin," Robredo said in an episode of her radio show Biserbisyong Leni on Sunday, November 4.

(It's saddening because here was someone who was not Filipino but dedicated her life to serving the poorest of our countrymen for 27 years…. She was truly immersed in communities and it's sad that she was forced to leave the country…. She was more Filipino than most of us.)

Robredo said she had read about Fox, including the nun's longtime work with the Lumad community in Aurora.

The Vice President drew parallels between the work of Fox and that of legal group Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, a group Robredo was part of and which teaches members of marginalized communities their rights.

Robredo added that Fox's help to local communities could not be replaced. This is in contrast to the message of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who said Fox's good deeds "cannot exempt" her from the laws of the Philippines.

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. (READ: Crackdown on missionaries fuels dictatorship fears)

Fox earlier contested the accusation against her and appealed the deportation before the Department of Justice. But as the case remained pending, her missionary visa was rejected for renewal and downgraded to a tourist visa.

Robredo believes Fox will eventually be able to return to the country. (READ: Sister Patricia Fox: I will return)

"Parating sa huli, kabutihan iyong mananaig. Kaya tingin ko dadating iyong panahon na babalik din si Sister sa atin at ipagpapatuloy iyong misyon niya para tulungan iyong mga Pilipino," the Vice President said.

(In the end, good will triumph. That's why I believe there will come a time when Sister Fox will return and continue her mission to help Filipinos.)

Robredo added that events surrounding Fox should serve as a reminder to politicians that they do not own the positions they hold.

"Pahiram lang sa amin iyong mga posisyon na hinahawakan namin ngayon. Dahil pahiram lang ito, ang nagpapahiram nito ang taumbayan, ayusin namin," she said.

(The positions we hold now were given to us temporarily. And because the people gave these positions to us, we should do our jobs properly.) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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