Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox may stay a little longer in the Philippines after her lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration contesting the deportation order filed by the Bureau of Immigration for joining political rallies.
Fox’s counsels accused the BI of “prejudging” her case and maintained that the 71-year-old nun did not break any rule by joining alleged prohibited “political activities.”
Immigration spokesman Dana Sandoval said that Fox’s counsel Sol Taule filed the motion at the bureau appealing a reiteration of their earlier stand that the Australian nun did not violate the conditions of her missionary visa.
Fox was allowed to stay for 30 more days because of the filing of the new MR and could stay a little longer as the bureau would evaluate and assess her motion.
“Should the BI maintained the deportation order, Fox will definitely elevate her motion to the Department of Justice. And this would give Fox more time to stay in the Philippines,” the BI said.
In the motion, Fox’s lawyer insisted that the Australian nun did not do anything wrong, did not commit any crime and did not violate any law and that there is no reason why she should not get a missionary visa.
Lawyer Katherine Panguban, another counsel for the Australian nun, also questioned the part of the decision where the BI Board of Commissioners admitted that it was based on the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte that Fox is an undesirable alien by joining political rallies.
“With due respect, that is wrong. To sanction that argument would be to state that decisions should be based on the public pronouncement of the President irrespective of the merits of the case and the arguments of the parties,” the MR added.
In the motion, Fox’s counsels said that if the deportation order will not be reversed, it would “curtail” the religious worker’s acts, but also grant the BI “the right to define what a religious missionary...can do or cannot do,” in violation of the constitutional guarantee to the free exercise of religious profession and worship.
“The call to stop the killings, to free political prisoners, and the like are universal calls not limited by territorial jurisdiction or the place where one is domiciled,” the motion added.
In a related development, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra shared the same view with Fox’s lawyers, saying that the Australian nun can still stay in the country unless the order issued against her by the BI becomes final and executory.
Guevarra said that the deportation order against Fox last week was not immediately executory after her lawyers filed the motion.
“The deportation order cannot be enforced until it becomes final. With the filing of the appeal, the deportation will not be executed,” Guevarra said.
The Justice secretary said Fox’s filing of appeal before the bureau effectively suspended the implementation of the deportation order.
“If the BI denies Sister Fox’s MR, the deportation order can still be subject to appeal to the DoJ or the Office of the President,” he added.
Guevarra also hinted that the issue may also reach the courts should Fox opt to file a petition after all administrative remedies before the executive branch are exhausted.
“Any adverse ruling of the DOJ or OP may further be reviewed by the courts,” the Justice Secretary said.
The BI earlier said that Fox violated “the limitations and conditions of Commonwealth Act 613, Section 9 (g) missionary visa and undesirable under Article 2711, Section 69 and order her deportation to Australia, subject to her submission of all appropriate clearance and the inclusion of her name in the BI’s blacklist, thus barring her re-entry into the country.”
The bureau cited as basis for its order several photographs showing that she engaged in several partisan political activities sometime in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018—including those where she reportedly demanded for the release of political prisoners, joined the rallies for land distribution in Hacienda Luisita, and a labor rally in Davao City.
The BI also considered President Duterte’s earlier statements that branded Fox as an undesirable alien by joining political rallies. “In fact, the President even publicly admitted that it was upon his instructions to investigate Fox for disorderly conduct for participating in rallies.”
“The power to deport aliens is lodged in the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The Commissioner of Immigration exercises this power, however, as the qualified political agent of the President. As the administrative alter-ego of the President in deportation cases, the actions of the Commissioner of Immigration relative to the arrest and detention of undesirable aliens are, unless reprobated or disapproved by the President, presumptively the acts of the President,” the ruling stated.
Last April 16, on the strength of a mission order issued by BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, Fox was invited to the BI main office in Intramuros, Manila City after the bureau’s Intelligence Division received information that the Australian nun has allegedly been attending protest rallies, fact-finding missions, jail visits, and supporting and involving herself in assemblies against the government.
She was allowed to leave the BI the following day after she surrendered her passport. The BI also issued an order forfeiting Fox’s missionary visa and downgrading it to a tourist visa and directing her to leave the country in 30 days.
However, Fox’s camp filed a petition for review before the DOJ last May 25, questioning the BI’s April 23 and May 17 orders, which denied her motion for reconsideration and supplemental motion for reconsideration, respectively.
Last June 18, the DOJ granted her petition for review and declared the BI’s April 23 and May 17 ruling null and void for having been issued without legal basis and reinstating her missionary visa but without prejudice to the result of a separate cancellation or deportation proceedings.