Following outcry, Bureau of Immigration frees Sister Patricia Fox

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Sister Patricia Fox following her release today. Picture via Twitter

The Bureau of Immigration has released Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun accused of engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.

BI Chief Jaime Morente approved approved her release today (Tuesday, April 17) after it was confirmed that she held a valid missionary visa and was therefore “a properly documented alien”.

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As we reported yesterday, the 71-year-old was arrested in her Quezon City home and taken to BI headquarters for questioning. 

Following a report on the news website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, protests against her detention went viral on social media and made headlines across the world. 

Despite now being released, Sister Patricia is still required to undergo a preliminary investigation, and needs to submit a counter-affidavit to the charge that she is an undesirable alien for joining protest actions.

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Upon her release, the nun told reporters that she did not join political rallies in opposition to the government.

“As a religious person I’ve been joining pro-human rights rallies for the farmers for their land rights, to release political prisoners,” she said. 

“If you call it political, I call it part of our duty as the religious to support and stand for the poor. I haven’t joined political rallies in terms of party politics, but I have been active in human rights issues.”

She also expressed surprise that the government would treat her in such a way after living in the country for 27 years.

Speaking in a mix of English and Filipino, she said: “I thought I was going to answer questions. May mga tanong pero ibang layunin. After 27 years, ganito ang treatment nila; I’ve been here since 1990.” 

Her counsel, lawyer Jobert Pahilga, said the BI had taken possession of the nun’s passport to ensure she takes part in the preliminary investigation.

Opposition politicians have been quick to condemn Sister Patricia’s detention. 

In a statement, the opposition Liberal Party said: “The emerging trend on crackdown against foreign activists in the country is alarming as exhibited by the harassment and casual arrests of the two human rights advocates, who were not even in protest activities or rallies when taken into custody.

“These incidents will trigger more questions on what the government is trying to conceal.”

Church leaders have also criticised the arrest, with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo saying he feared a crackdown on government critics.

He said: “This means that even if there’s no martial law yet, they’re already cracking down on people who oppose them.”

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