Bishop fears crackdown amid Australian nun’s detention

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Bishop fears crackdown amid Australian nun’s detention
'Ibig sabihin wala pang martial law ngayon, iniisa-isa na nila ang mga taong kumokontra sa kanila,' says Bishop Pabillo as he visits detained Sister Patricia Fox

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said he fears a crackdown on government critics after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday, April 16, detained an Australian nun known for promoting farmers’ rights and opposing extrajudicial killings (EJKs).

Pabillo, who visited detained Sister Patricia Fox at the BI on Monday evening, also appealed for the Australian missionary’s release.

In a phone interview with Rappler while he was at the BI, Pabillo said he personally knows the Australian nun. The bishop described her as a “very frail” woman whom he has worked with in helping farmers and fighting EJKs.

Asked if he thinks these advocacies have something to do with her detention, Pabillo said in apparent reference to the government: “Palagay ko may kinalaman ‘yan. Ibig sabihin wala pang martial law ngayon, iniisa-isa na nila ang mga taong kumokontra sa kanila.

(I think that these have something to do with it. This means that even if there’s no martial law yet, they’re already cracking down on people who oppose them.)

Fox said BI officials arrested her at their mission house in Quezon City at around 2:15 pm on Monday, according to the news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). She was detained at the BI intelligence division in Intramuros, Manila.

CBCP News said Fox will spend the night at the BI office, and “will be released immediately” once she surrenders her passport, which is still with a travel agency because she will travel to Australia in May.

‘Unwanted foreigner’

Pabillo explained that the BI accused Fox of being an “unwanted foreigner” because she has joined rallies in the Philippines. He questioned this claim because Fox has long been doing this. 

In any case, Pabillo echoed the appeal of Fox’s fellow nuns, citing the detained sister’s medical condition that requires a refrigerated injection every night.

CBCP News said Fox “has been under medication for a spinal cord illness.”

Pauwiin na lang siya. Ano naman ang magagawa niya? Matanda na ‘yan, uugod-ugod na ‘yan (Let her go home. What can she do? She’s old, she’s frail),” Pabillo said in his phone interview with Rappler at around 8:20 pm on Monday. 

Kung anong mangyari sa kanya, pananagutan ng BI ‘yan (The BI will be answerable for whatever happens to her),” he added.

Fox’s detention comes after the Philippine government on Sunday, April 15, blocked an official of the Party of European Socialists from entering the Philippines. A slip issued by the BI showed that the EU political party official, Giacomo Filibeck, was part of a “black list order.”

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin slammed the Duterte administration for Filibeck’s “shameful” deportation, saying that it shows “how paranoid this government is in keeping the rest of the world blind from the damage President Duterte has done to our country.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email