Sister Patricia Fox’s departure is a “timely reminder” that foreigners do not enjoy the same rights as Filipino citizens in terms of criticizing the government, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said foreigners cannot speak against the government as they do not have the same political rights.
“All foreigners who stay in as journalists in this country do not have political rights, and that includes freedom of expression. They cannot be joining rallies and join the mass action and speak against the government—they cannot do that,” Panelo said in a press briefing.
“They should be first become citizens of the land to enjoy such rights. They do not enjoy the same political rights as the citizens of the land,” Panelo added.
The Palace official made the remark following the departure of Fox who caught the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte after her supposed “meddling with internal politics” by joining human rights protests.
Panelo also belied Fox’s claim that a “reign of terror and tyranny” currently prevails in the country.
“There is no reign of terror and tyranny in the Philippines. There is only a reign of fear in the minds and hearts of those who violated the law. They are terrified that the law is finally running after them. What we have is a reign of strict enforcement of the laws,” said Panelo.
He also called the Australian’s statement as misplaced towards the country when different surveys showed positive results of the Duterte administration’s fight against the illegal drugs.
“Close to eight of 10 Filipinos believe that the country is on the right direction, according to the latest Social Weather Stations survey. Another survey pointed out that a sizeable majority of Filipinos, 69 percent, acknowledge the efforts of the current administration to eradicate the problem of illegal drugs in the country as its most important achievement,” he cited.
“This is a classic case of an unappreciative tourist who saw nothing good and complained about the country which graciously extended its hospitality,” he added, calling Fox a “violator” of the country’s laws.
Panelo, however, said the Australian nun still has the right to express or issue statements abroad, may it be against the government or not, as she is “entitled to her own opinion.”
“The administration continues to adhere to the rule of law. The President follows the command of the Constitution for him to enforce the laws of the land regardless of who is involved. Let no person, therefore, take lightly the President’s duty to serve and protect the people,” he concluded.
In the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he couldn’t believe that Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox uttered words strongly criticizing the Duterte government.
“She just can’t contain her bitterness and hatred which doesn’t represent the teachings of the Catholic church,” said Lacson.
“She should have offered prayers for the enlightenment of concerned government officials instead of tirades and harsh criticisms against an elected leader of a country that hospitably hosted her for so many years,” added Lacson.
He said that Fox should have offered prayers instead for the Filipinos whom she claimed she loves dearly and added that she can not claim to “more Filipino than most of us.”
Lacson said there are laws and the Bureau of Immigration as well as DOJ issuances that do not allow foreigners to participate in any political activity whether it be pro or anti-establishment.
He said that a visa issued by concerned government authorities comes in the form of a privilege rather than a right.
“Once abused, worse used to violate our laws, it gives the host country the right to take back that privilege,” Lacson said.
He added that is also true to practically all countries in the whole world.
“We treat our foreign visitors as our guests. We also reserve our right to terminate or take back that hospitality accorded to them,” he said.
He added that there are agencies in charge of determining all these but due process must be observed in the withdrawal of such privilege which in her case, was followed.