Roque on Australian nun's arrest: 'Apologies are in order'

THE government is slated to issue an apology for detaining Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian missionary accused of engaging in "political activities and anti-government demonstrations," Malacañang said Wednesday, April 18.

A day after justifying the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) arrest order against Fox, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. admitted that the bureau may have falsely charged the Australian nun.

"There is really a law that states a foreigner must not interfere in our political affairs. Any government does not want interference from foreign entities," Roque said in a television interview.

"The difference is perhaps, there's a mistake when it comes to the case of Sister Fox. Perhaps, apologies are in order. She has been immediately released by the (BI). So perhaps, there's a mistake on the part of the (BI)," he added.

Fox was arrested by the BI on Monday, April 17, for purportedly violating the Philippine government's conditions for foreigners seeking to stay in the country when she allegedly attended protest rallies and got involved in political acts. She was released a day later after BI authorities found her missionary visa to be in order.

Her arrest and overnight detention were met with criticisms from several human rights and religious groups.

Fox received her missionary visa on October 15 last year. It is valid until September 9, 2018.

She has been working in the Philippines for 27 years to help farmers and indigenous peoples, as per the statement earlier issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Her arrest was made on the heels of the deportation of Party of European Socialists (PES) deputy secretary-general Giacomo Filibeck, who was denied entry at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for supposed political activity.

Filibeck was part of the PES mission that visited the country in October 2017 and condemned the rising drug-related deaths linked to the Duterte administration's brutal crackdown on illegal drugs.

The two incidents raised apprehensions of a government crackdown against foreign human rights advocates.

Roque insisted that the immigration authorities had made the right choice in barring Filibeck from entering the country.

"On the case of the European socialist, it's clear that there's a basis. He went here to participate in a political convention. That is prohibited by our law," he said.

"So he has no right to enter (our territory), and we have the power to reject foreigners' intent to go (into) our territory," the Palace official added. (SunStar Philippines)

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