Roy Lagarde, CBCP News
Authorities have arrested a 71-year-old Australian Catholic nun and known human rights advocate over allegations that she is an ‘undesirable alien’.
Sr Patricia Fox, superior of the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines, was met by six personnel of the Bureau of Immigration at their mission house in Quezon City on Monday afternoon. She was taken to the BI intelligence division in Intramuros, Manila, where she was detained.
Sr. Patricia Fox (left of picture, in white check blouse) is prayed over by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Bureau of Immigration
office in Intramuros, Manila where she was detained. Picture by Roy Lagarde
BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said that Sr Fox was arrested pursuant to a mission order issued by Commissioner Jaime Morente.
‘We await completion of the investigation before we issue our official statement. Thank you,’ said Mangrobang.
Attorney Jobert Pahilga, counsel of Sr Fox, said the nun faces deportation for her alleged participation in protest rallies.
But the lawyer said the official in charge of the investigation recommended Sr Fox’s release once she’s able to produce her passport, which she gave to travel agency arranging her trip back to Australia next month.
This means that the nun will have had to spend the night at the BI headquarters while waiting for her travel document.
However, Attorney Pahilga said the BI will hold Fox’s passport while an investigation is pending.
Sr Fox has worked in the Philippines for 27 years helping farmers and indigenous peoples.
She recently joined an international fact-finding and solidarity mission that investigated alleged rights abuses against farmers and lumad in Mindanao.
Sr Fox has been under medication for a spinal cord illness.
‘I’ve been in and out of the country several times but I’ve never been questioned,’ she said. ‘The immigration bureau has not said anything on what to do with my missionary visa.’
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo raised alarm over the arrest of Fox. He visited the nun at the BI on Monday evening, and says the nun’s arrest may 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.
Meanwhile, In Australia, Sr Mary Barbuto, region co-leader for Sr Pat’s religious order, the Lady of Sion, has condemned the detainment of Sr Fox.
Sr Barbuto stated:
‘The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion indignantly condemns the Bureau of Immigration’s arrest and detention of Sister Patricia Fox, NDS, without due process and respect for her fundamental rights.
Sister Pat has since 1990 been a tireless worker amongst the poor and marginalised people of the Philippines.
Yesterday afternoon, April 16, agents from the Bureau of Immigration arrested her in her convent and brought her to the Bureau of Immigration detention room without any court order. 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 of Our Lady of Sion is most deeply thankful for the support accorded to Sister Pat by those in her network and to the international community who are ever watchful.
We are especially grateful for the consoling presence and inspiring intervention of Bishop Broderick Pabillo, D.D. and the Papal Nuncio through his representative. We call on Church People to stand their ground, assert their rights to preach the Gospel and to be in solidarity with the poor.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Sion call on the Philippine Government through its Bureau of Immigration to set Sister Pat free so she can continue her vital ministry.’