Sister Pat Fox’s departure was a “timely reminder” that foreigners do not have the same rights as Filipinos, a presidential spokesman said.
The Australian missionary arrived back in Melbourne today (Sunday, November 4) just hours before she was due to be deported for allegedly involving herself in political protests.
Following her departure yesterday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said: “The departure of Sister Patricia Fox is a timely reminder to all foreigners who stay or sojourn in this country that they are not entitled to all the rights and privileges granted to the citizens of the Philippines, including the absolute exercise of political rights inherently exclusive to Filipino citizens.
“Undeniable is the fact that Sister Fox joined protest rallies. She has publicly acknowledged that joining these activities is part of her advocacy. Her participation therefore violated the conditions of her stay thereby mocking our laws, and abusing the hospitality extended to her by the host country.”
The 72-year-old missionary was first arrested in April, and questioned on her activities in the country.
Then, in May, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) ordered the forfeiture of her missionary visa for allegedly engaging in political activities.
A six-month legal fight has followed, with an appeal pending at the Department of Justice.
The initial order to investigate Sister Patricia came directly from President Duterte.
Panelo also stressed that there was no “injustice” or “silencing or threatening anyone from exercising the freedom of expression” under the Duterte administration’s watch.
“Freedom of expression remains unbridled in this part of the world,” he said.
“Sister Fox was given due process of law. She underwent a legal process where she was given the opportunity to be heard. She availed of all remedies that she may stay in the Philippines but the BI upheld the law and denied the request for the extension of her visa, which is set to expire on November 4.”
Sister Pat has been working in the Philippines for 27 years. She says the focus of her mission has been landless farmers and indigenous peoples.
Panelo added that the government wished her “well in her travel and we thank her for whatever good deeds she has performed during her stay in the country”.
Upon landing at Melbourne today, Sister Pat said: “I hadn’t planned on coming home at this stage. I really thought they would extend the visa.
“I felt happy to be coming home because I have my family and friends in this community, but I was sad too – and especially after you’ve had such a lovely day with all these people who’ve said wonderful things about you – it was really hard leaving, too.”