BI orders release of Australian nun

(UPDATED) - After detaining 71-year-old Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox overnight, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) ordered her release Tuesday, April 17.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which broke the news of Fox’s arrest Monday, tweeted about the BI’s release order Tuesday afternoon.

Fox, superior of the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines, was arrested by immigration agents on Monday, April 16, for violating the conditions of her stay "by attending protest rallies and engaging in political activities."

She has been doing missionary work, specifically among farmers and Lumad (indigenous peoples), in the Philippines for the past 27 years. Her arrest was based on a mission order issued by Commissioner Jaime Morente.

In a statement, the BI said Commissioner Jaime Morente approved the recommendation of the BI Legal Division to release Fox for further investigation.

Cesar Santos, head of the legal division, said in his recommendation that it is improper for Fox to be a subject of an inquest proceedings as she was not caught in the act of violating any immigration laws.

Santos said that inquest proceedings applies only to those aliens caught in the act violating such.

More so, the BI said questioning by the BI Legal Division established that Fox's missionary passport is still valid, thus she is a documented alien.

The missionary visa of Fox was issued on October 15 last year and will expire on September 9 this year.

The BI said Fox will undergo a preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her with the BI Board of Commissioners.

The BI earlier justified the arrest of Fox by saying that she had violated the conditions of her stay in the country by attending protest rallies and engaging in political activities.

Fox was arrested a day after the BI barred from entering the country Party of European Socialists Deputy Secretary-General Giacomo Filibeck, also for being critical to the government.

Filibeck, who had traveled to Cebu for the Akbayan Party-list Congress, was handed a blacklist order upon arrival at the Mactan Cebu International Airport and deported shortly.

The BI's move, which was supported by Malacañang and the Department of Justice, drew flak from the opposition, among them, the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives.

In a statement, the seven-man Makabayan bloc said the arrest of Fox was part of the Duterte administration’s crackdown against its critics, the opposition and human rights advocates.

“Sister Pat Fox is a long time human rights advocate, particularly for the rights of mostly poor and landless farmers in the country. She extended help to the Hacienda Luisita, Negros and Mindanao farm workers on their land cultivation campaign,” they said.

“The immigration department is barking (up) the wrong tree on this one. Sis. Pat Fox had a good standing status both in Australia and in the Philippines. Helping the poor is not a crime and joining peace activities to advocate for peasant welfare and human rights is not against the law," they added.

The bloc is composed of Representatives Emmi de Jesus, Arlene Brosas, Carlos Zarate and Sarah Elago, among others. (SunStar Philippines)

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