Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox speaks to the press during her release from detention at the Immigration headquarters in Manila on April 17, 2018, a day after she was arrested. Philippine authorities detained an elderly Australian Catholic nun overnight in what civil rights groups alleged on April 17 was a crackdown on foreign critics of President Rodrigo Duterte's human rights record.
Ted Aljibe/AFP, File
Immigration denies request to extend Patricia Fox's temporary visa
( - October 31, 2018 - 6:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday denied Australian missionary Patricia Anne Fox's application to extend her temporary visitor visa.

According to BI documents obtained by on Wednesday, Fox applied for an extension of her visitor visa on October 29. 

"The entry and admission of an alien are matters of privilege," the BI order read. "Extensions of stay are a matter of grace, which should be strictly interpreted."

Fox's visa was downgraded to tourist from missionary last week. Immigration spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval said then that Fox's missionary visa expired on September 5 and she was given a temporary visitor's visa valid for 59 days, or until November 3.

READ: Immigration downgrades Patricia Fox’s missionary visa to tourist 

The order denying the extension of Fox's visitor's visa cited the Board of Comissioners' previous resolution finding "substantial evidence that Fox was present and had actively participated in political activities." 

According to the order "Fox never represented her petitioner, The Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, in the activities she participated in." 

They said further that she was seen holding banners or wearing shirts representing left-aligned groups such as Karapatan, UMA, Pamalakaya, Amihan, KMP/Anakpawis.

Fox was first arrested last April 16 on grounds that she participated in activities by the political and human rights organizations mentioned. She has repeatedly said that she has never participated in partisan activities.

Fox to leave country on November 3

Shortly after receiving this latest decision to deny the extension of Fox's temporary visitor's visa, her lawyers said in a statement that she would be leaving the country voluntarily on November 3. 

"Under the circumstances, she is compelled to leave under strong protest," Fox's counsel said in a statement. She is being represented by lawyers from the National Union of People's Lawyers and Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo.

"Sister Fox will leave the Philippines with a clear conscience that she has done nothing wrong and illegal during her 27 years of stay in the country," the statement continued.

Faith-based non-governmental organization Solidarity with the Poor Network condemned the order denying Fox's extension. "She is leaving the country under protest and would continue to advocate for the human rights of Filipino people, even outside the country, especially its marginalized sectors such as the peasants, workers, and indigenous peoples who are under a tyrannical regime," the organization said in the statement.

Former Palace spokesperson Harry Roque initially said Fox's arrest was an error last April. But shortly after, President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted having Fox investigated for her supposed political activities.

READ: 'Duterte: 'I ordered Australian nun’s probe'

"It was not the military who arrested the nun,"  Duterte he told reporters in April. "It was upon my orders implemented by the Bureau of Immigration, and I take full responsibility legal or otherwise for this incident," he also said.  

He added: "I ordered her to be investigated. Not deported at once. Not arrested but invite her to an investigation for disorderly conduct. The Philippine laws provide that I can deport you, or refuse you entry if you are an undesirable alien."

On September 18 and 19, the 71-year-old nun testified against Duterte at the International People's Tribunal in Belgium through a video recording.

READ: Sister Patricia Fox testifies vs Duterte gov't before int'l tribunal

When asked about her alleged participation in human rights protests and rallies while in the country under a missionary visa last September, Fox said that she equated religious activity with standing up for human rights. 

"As a human being, especially as a religious, we have to stand with the oppressed and what I was doing was listening to... the workers who are just asking to be [regularized]... the tribal people who are being sent off their land," she said.

"So to me, it's a human rights issue. To me, it's what you do as a human rights defender, particularly as a religious."

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