SISTER Patricia Anne Fox and Jerome Aba could very well be a study in contrasts in their personal circumstances. But they now stand as stark reminders of why we must reclaim globalization so that it is people-led and not subservient to state interests.
Sister Pat is a 71-year-old Australian nun of the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. A lawyer and teacher by training, she has been in the Philippines since 1990 to work with the poor, taking on roles such as head of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and spiritual director of the Union of Agricultural Workers.
Jerome Aba is a 25-year-old Moro who heads the Suara Bangsamoro, is co-chairperson of the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, and as Datu Watamama, is an acknowledged leader of his community. He was invited as resource speaker for various activities in the United States including the 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour hosted by the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)-US.
Sister Pat was arrested on April 16 by the Bureau of Immigration (BI). She was released the following day only to have her missionary visa canceled. No substantiated proof was presented that she had been involved in illegal activities, other than participating in rallies.
Jerome was illegally arrested on April 17 and arbitrarily detained until the 19th by the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Customs and Border Protection at the San Francisco International Airport.
Despite a newly-issued 10-year visa and adequate travel documents, Jerome was deported.
President Duterte later admitted that he had caused the investigation into the activities of Sr. Pat whom he accused of “violation of sovereignty” for allegedly making critical remarks about government, saying she has a foul mouth: “walang hiya ang bunganga.”
What is laughable of course, aside from the all-too apparent lack of introspection about coarse language, is that this yet another display of twisted nationalism takes place as more news of Chinese involvement in our economic and political life is unveiled: from encroachments on our territory in the West Philippine Sea, joint patrolling of the Sulu Sea, a reported plan of casino-building in Boracay, to the rehabilitation of the most affected areas in Marawi City.
Foreign intervention in Philippine politics would merit a separate and lengthy discussion. But I must say that it was in 2016 when allegations of significant Chinese contributions—and not from the Chinoy community—to campaign kitties joined other whispered accounts of American and other monies that had flowed as election “donations.”
The Philippines has a law going back to the 1940s that regulates the actions of foreigners in the country and forms the backdrop of more recent directives such as Operations Order No. SBM-2015-025 of the Aquino administration.
Senator Panfilo Lacson shed better light on the matter when he said that the BI imposed “limitations on certain activities of foreigners that are inimical to the interest of the state” (underscoring mine).
Governments, as key element of states, implement the corporate-driven globalization agenda championed by business-backed global mechanisms such as the World Trade Organization that espouses the free and unbridled movement of trade, capital, and peoples across borders. By ‘movement of people’ they really mean allowing workers increased mobility to afford corporations access to cheaper and specialized skills.
Thus, it is not so much that an old nun and a young man have meddled in Philippine and American affairs respectively, but that their acts of solidarity and witnessing-with-and-for-the-poor have threatened the powers-that-be lodged in governments.
Sister Pat and Jerome are but among many victims of a global order that prevents people from appreciating connectedness with and directly expressing support for the struggles of those that are not of their own nationality and skin color.
In preventing Sr. Pat from continuing missionary work in the Philippines, and Jerome the chance to engage US churches and their constituents, the two governments have deprived their own citizens the opportunities to overcome isolation, claim a sense of shared aspirations and community, and express collective powers through acts of dialog and solidarity.
We should stand with Sister Pat and Jerome because in so doing we would be standing up for ourselves and our interests.
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