Australian nun freed after arrest for ‘political activity’

Australian nun freed after arrest for ‘political activity’

Sr. Patricia Anne Fox walks free from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) office in Manila where she was held for almost a day, April 17, 2018. CBCPNews

By Roy Lagarde

April 17, 2018

Manila, Philippines

A 71-year-old Australian nun has been released by the Philippine authorities on Tuesday after being held for 22 hours.

Sr. Patricia Anne Fox, a missionary of Our Lady of Sion, was released at around 3:30pm and was brought back to their convent in Quezon City.

She was arrested yesterday afternoon by operatives of the Bureau of Immigration because she was deemed an “undesirable alien” for joining “political activities and anti-government demonstrations”.

“Actually, I thought I was coming only to answer questions,” Fox told the media shortly after her release. “I have been here for 27 years and this happened only now.”

The nun was freed on Tuesday afternoon after it was established that she holds a valid missionary visa making her a “properly documented alien”.

The BI said that Fox is not covered by inquest proceedings as the latter will only apply to aliens arrested after being caught in flagrante violating immigration laws.

But the missionary will still be under investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her.

Under the immigration law, foreigners are barred from joining mass actions or political activity as the act amounts to violating the conditions of their stay in the country.

Fox admitted joining demonstrations in solidarity with peasants groups but “not anti-government rallies”.

“I would call it religious because we are called to stand beside the poor,” she said. “I haven’t joined partisan political rallies but I have been active in human rights issues.”

The BI legal division recommended Fox’s release yesterday evening provided that she surrenders her passport, pending further probe.

At that time, however, her passport was with a travel agency arranging her trip back to Australia next month.

Atty. Jobert Pahilga, Fox’s counsel, said that the nun was released because there is no sufficient basis to hold her in continuous detention.

“The case is not yet dismissed. We are required to file our counter affidavit in 10 days from today to answer the allegations that she participated in anti-government rallies,” he said.