MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine immigration bureau has ordered the deportation of an Australian nun who has angered the president by joining anti-government rallies, but her lawyers call the move “persecution” and say they’ll appeal.
The Bureau of Immigration order issued on Thursday also called for the inclusion of Sister Patricia Anne Fox in the agency’s blacklist which would prohibit her from returning to the country. It said Fox violated the terms of her missionary visa.
The bureau said allowing Fox to stay in the country “would open floodgates for other aliens’ unbridled right to criticize the government by joining rallies to the detriment of public peace and order.”
“Verily, there are other ways for foreigners to crtiticize government as part of their freedom of expression other than joining unruly rallies and protests,” the bureau said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says Fox’s deportation “is stayed pending appeal.”
The lawyers for Fox issued a statement saying they were “utterly dismayed” by the decision.
“Sister Pat has been doing her missionary work in the Philippines for the past 27 years undisturbed by any deportation case. Helping the poor is not a risk to public interest, peace or order. In fact, the government must recognize her selfless service to the oppressed sectors of this society,” the statement said.
Speaking to CBCPNews, Fox admitted her disappointment but said “we will look at what more we can do about it.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has been hypersensitive to criticism, especially by foreigners, whom he says have no right to meddle in domestic affairs. His bloody anti-drug crackdown has left thousands of suspects dead and alarmed human rights groups and Western governments.
Fox, a co-ordinator for the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, has been a missionary in The Philippines since 1990. She was threatened with deportation earlier this year but successfully fought to stay in the country.
Her current missionary visa is only valid until Sept. 5.
On Thursday, Fox was a speaker at the the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) organized by Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
At one point of the conference, Fox spoke about her faith and missionary works of helping the poor and the marginalized Filipinos in rural areas.
Crux staff contributed to this report.