“It’s not a crackdown. It’s really the law. The law may be harsh, but such is the law,” Harry Roque said today (Thursday, April 19).
His words came a day after President Duterte admitted that he ordered the Bureau of Immigration to investigate Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun, for alleged “disorderly behaviour”.
Roque also said there was no contradiction between his suggestion that an apology might be in order for the arrest of the Australian, and the president’s tirade against the 71-year-old that followed just hours later.
Speaking yesterday morning, he said: “It seems that there was a mistake in the case of Sister Fox and maybe apologies are in order because she was immediately released by CID [Commission on Immigration and Deportation, an old name for the BI]. CID also commits mistakes.”
However, today he said: “There’s no difference. I said my statement early in the morning on the basis of the cardinal statement that the reason why the nun was released was because she was not a subject of summary deportation because she was not caught in flagrante delecto [in the act].”
Yesterday afternoon, the president blasted Sister Patricia for her supposed criticism of the government. He told her to focus the Australian government and the Catholic Church instead for their failings.
Sister Patricia has been living in the Philippines for 27 years as a missionary and advocate of farmers’ rights.
The nun was arrested on Monday and was detained until Tuesday for allegedly involving herself in political activities.
When asked about the presence of several communist Chinese officials at an anniversary celebration of the ruling PDP-Laban in February, Roque said that was different.
During the event, guests heard a briefing on the life and thoughts of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“They signed an agreement,” said Roque. “These (foreigners) are joining protests. The distinction is clear.”
Based on Immigrations Operations Order SBM-2015-025, “foreign tourists are prohibited from engaging in any political activity as defined by law and jurisprudence, such as but not limited to, joining, supporting, contributing or involving themselves in whatever manner in any rally, assembly, gathering, whether for or against the government.”
This was also the order cited by the government for deporting Giacamo Filibeck of the Party of European Socialists, who had been invited to a congress organised by Akbayan in Cebu over the weekend.