MANILA The camp of Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox on Monday filed a petition for review before the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to reverse the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) decision deporting her from the country.
Fox appeared at the DOJ together with her lawyer, Kathy Panguban, a member of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), where she filed a 36-page petition for review asking the department, through Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, to overturn the BI's deportation order on August 23.
In her petition, the 72-year-old missionary said she did not commit illegal acts that would justify her deportation from the country.
In a supposedly civilized country that respects and promotes human rights and the well-being of its people, no amount of ratiocination could justify such an order. For there is nothing illegal and political in petitioner's act of espousing social justice, peace and human rights, read Fox's petition.
The petition further added that if the BI's order will not be reversed, this would curtail Fox's exercise of her religious belief.
By her acts, the petitioner simply showed that she is living her missionary life consistent with the charisms of her living congregation and the social teaching of the Catholic Church and any other church to help the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.
Fox insisted that the activities she joined or supported were neither political not partisan but were part of her apostolate and missionary work.
The NUPL accused the BI of not being objective in resolving Fox's case as it gave more weight to President Duterte's order for her deportation for criticizing his policies.
The NUPL noted that in its July 19, 2018 order, the BI stated that since the President has already manifested his intention, the Board of Commissioners has no choice but to abide by it, shows that the BI has already prejudged the case.
Thus, while it may be true that the BI gave the petitioner an opportunity to be heard allowing her to file her counter-affidavit and memorandum, the same is seen merely as a formal compliance with the rules, but it has already clearly made a predetermination of the outcome of the case based on the public pronouncement of the President, the petition read.
Furthermore, the petition stated that the BI failed to address the issue of whether the alleged activities committed by Fox are valid exercise of her right to free speech and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed and protected under the 1987 Constitution and international law.
In their position that even if Fox is a foreigner, she is entitled to such rights and the acts she has done are in the exercise of such right.
Under the Constitution, the law and prevailing jurisprudence in the Philippines, the right to free expression and to peaceably assemble are given utmost respect and deference and may only be curtailed if it is shown that there is a 'grave and imminent danger ' of a 'substantive evil' to 'public order, public safety, public morals or public health', it stated in the petition.
If Filipino citizens may only be restricted from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble where there is clear and present danger, the same is also applicable to foreigners like the petitioner, it added.
The NUPL said Fox is hoping that the DOJ would thoroughly review the order of the BI which has no factual and legal basis.
Meanwhile, a purported dialogue between Fox and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra did not push through Monday afternoon due to short notice, according to the DOJ chief.
He said he saw Fox's request for a 1:30 p.m. meeting only past 3 p.m. "In view of the shortness of the notice, I will just reply to her in writing," he told reporters.
Fox is being accused of violating the terms and conditions of her visa when she participated in rallies, press conferences, and fact-finding missions.
On August 23, the BI Board of Commissioners issued a three-page resolution, denying the motion for reconsideration filed by Fox for having no new matters raised that warrant the modification or reversal of the resolution.
The order was signed by Commissioner Jaime Morente, Deputy Commissioner J. Tobias Javier, and Officer-In-Charge Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Marinas.
The BI has established 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 2018including 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 agency also considered statements made by President Duterte that the Australian nun is an undesirable alien following her participation in protest rallies.
In its order, the BI said the nun is an undesirable alien for allegedly participating in political activities in the Philippines.
Fox, however, can stay in the Philippines until her deportation case has been resolved with finality.
Last Friday, Guevarra said Fox could still apply for a tourist visa to prolong her stay in the country.
Guevarra said should the DOJ or the Office of the President (OP) deny her appeal she can have her missionary visa downgraded to a tourist visa.
May be downgraded to a tourist visa only, for a limited period, subject to the outcome of any further proceedings on the deportation issue, he told reporters.
Fox can only stay in PH for 59 days as tourist
Meanwhile, an Immigration official said Fox can only stay in the country for less than two months once her missionary visa is downgraded to a tourist visa.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval noted that the Australian nun did not file a tourist visa application as her camp decided to just wait for the bureau's decision on the application for extension of her missionary visa.
Automatic kapag downgraded ang visa (If one's visa is downgraded), (from missionary to tourist), she can just stay for 59 days, she explained.
The Australian nun's missionary visa is set to expire on September 5.
If she will not file for her downgrading, may 59 days to file or not to file, she gets 59 days after pero subject to fines and penalties. Magiging overstaying po kasi siya (She will become an overstaying alien), the BI official added.
On Monday, Fox, accompanied by Panguban, went to the BI office to follow up the petition for the renewal of her missionary visa.
Subject for evaluation pa rin (ang petition). Previously, ang kanyang (her) application for renewal, technically hindi tinanggap (was rejected), maghintay na lang (let's just wait) (after the) payment. Pagbayad ng (After paying the) filing fee, once the application for renewal is filed, it is subject for evaluation pa kung ito ay approved ng BI or hindi (whether it will be approved by the BI or not), she added.
Fox filed the petition for the extension of her missionary visa last August 20. (with reports from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency