Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox has said the Bureau of Immigration had “no right” to limit her missionary activities in the country.
In her formal response to the deportation case against her, the 71-year old claimed that allowing the bureau to define the scope of her missionary work would be a violation of the Constitution.
In a 26-page counter affidavit filed today (Friday, May 4), she said: “With due respect, Agent Gonzales [BI intelligence officer Melody Penelope Gonzales] conducted a sloppy investigation and intelligence work and made malicious, sweeping and erroneous assumption and conclusion of facts and law in stating that what I did was beyond the limits of my missionary and apostolate works.
“She has no right to define and delimit what constitute the apostolate and missionary works of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, a religious corporation registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
Citing Section 5, Article III or the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution, she highlighted that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
“The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights,” she added.
While she was not a Filipino, Fox argued that the constitutional provision was “applicable to all, both foreigner and Filipino citizen alike”.
“This has been the consistent ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court since early 1920 up to the advent of the 1987 Constitution,” she said.
“Hence, my right to the exercise of religious freedom and worship in the Philippines, which also include the free exercise and performance of apostolate and missionary works, are also protected by the Bill of Rights guaranteed under Philippine Constitution.”
Calling on the decision to be reversed, she concluded: “I most respectfully move, for it is extremely warranted, to dismiss the case, for utter lack of merit, factually or legally, and to restore my missionary visa.
“I also most respectfully move for the return of my passport to my possession as it is currently under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration.”
The bureau had directed Sister Patricia to leave the Philippines by May 25 because she allegedly violated the conditions of her stay by engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.
President Duterte has already said he would resist pressure to overturn the expulsion order.