A 71-year-old Australian missionary nun has been released by Philippines authorities after a day in detention, but still faces possible deportation.
Bureau of Immigration agents arrested Sr Patricia Fox, mother superior of the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines, on April 16 because she was deemed an “undesirable alien” for joining “political activities and anti-government demonstrations”.
Sr Fox was released and returned to her convent in Quezon City a day later. However the bureau still holds the nun’s passport as part of an ongoing investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her.
Under the immigration law, foreigners are barred from joining mass actions or political activity as the act amounts to violating the conditions of their stay in the country.
Sr Fox admitted to BI officials she had joined demonstrations in solidarity with peasant groups but “not anti-government rallies”.
“She was shown pictures of herself joining rallies and present in fact-finding and mercy missions among the indigenous and plundered ecological environment,” the congregation’s region co-leader Sr Mary Barbuto said from Melbourne.
“She is certainly not out of the woods yet. They (BI officials) will certainly interview her further.
“They were using the word deportation when they first talked to her. But we just don’t know at this point.”
Sr Fox co-founded the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines in 1990. Much of her work since has been helping impoverished farmers and indigenous peoples.
She recently joined an international fact-finding and solidarity mission investigating alleged rights abuses in Mindanao, almost a year after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law on the southern island.
Human rights advocates and Church leaders including Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo raised the alarm over Sr Fox’s arrest.
Bishop Pabillo visited Sr Fox after she was taken for questioning, and said her arrest could be part of a crackdown against government critics.
“There’s no martial law yet but they are already going after people who oppose them,” he said.
Sr Barbuto described Sr Fox as “a tireless worker amongst the poor and marginalised people of the Philippines”.
“She (Sr Fox) is a frail, little old lady, but she can certainly make her presence felt,” Sr Barbuto said.
“We call on Church people to stand their ground, assert their rights to preach the Gospel and to be in solidarity with the poor.”
Original story posted April 17 at 3:37pm
SISTERS OF SION ‘SHOCKED’ BY AUSTRALIAN NUN’S DETENTION IN PHILIPPINES
A COLLEAGUE of Australian religious, Sr Patricia Fox, detained by authorities in the Philippines said he was shocked by her arrest, describing her as “a tremendously devoted person”
“Sr Pat Fox is part a network of human rights workers who is very generous with her time for us,” Melbourne Catholic Mission director Kevin Meese, who leads groups of Australian students on emersion projects in the Philippines, said.
Sr Fox, mother superior of the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines, faced deportation, after she was taken from her mission house in Quezon City and brought to the immigration bureau in Manila for questioning on April 16.
Emeritus Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez arrived at the bureau to visit Sr Fox, as activists staged a protect outside condemning her detention.
After working in the country for 27 years helping impoverished farmers and indigenous peoples, she recently joined an international fact-finding and solidarity mission investigating alleged rights abuses in Mindanao, almost a year after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law on the southern island.
“I’ve been in and out of the country several times but I’ve never been questioned,” Sr Fox told the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
“The immigration bureau has not said anything on what to do with my missionary visa.”
Human rights advocates and church leaders including Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo raised the alarm over Sr Fox’s arrest.
He visited Sr Fox after she was taken for questioning at the Bureau of Immigration, and said her arrest could be part of a crackdown against government’s critics.
“There’s no martial law yet but they are already going after people who oppose them,” Bishop Pabillo said.
In December last year, a retired priest and known human rights advocate was killed in Jaen, Nueva Ecija province.
Fr Marcelito Paez, 72, was gunned down by still unidentified men after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner.
Mr Meese said members of the Sisters of Sion congregation in Australia, were “shocked” by Sr Fox’s detention.
The Sisters of Sion have a presence in Sydney and Mildura and in eight Melbourne suburbs.
In 1990 two Australian Sisters founded Sion in the Philippines. An international Congregation, the Sisters have a presence in 22 countries.