Labor NGO decries illegal arrest of Australian missionary (update: forfeiture of missionary visa)

Sister Patricia Fox (left) is an advocate of genuine agrarian reform and people's rights and welfare. She had done numerous missionary work with Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (PATRIA). Photo by Ronalyn Olea of Bulatlat.

A labor non-government organization (NGO) decries the unlawful arrest and detention of Sister Patricia Fox, NDS, a 71-year old Australian missionary of the international Roman Catholic congregation Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, from the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion. Sister Pat was taken by Bureau of Immigration operatives Monday afternoon from her home in Project 3, Quezon City.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said that Fox is an advocate of genuine agrarian reform and people’s rights and welfare. She had done numerous missionary work with Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (PATRIA). She actively participated in international solidarity missions in Mindanao in the midst of martial law and attacks against peasants and indigenous people.

“Sister Pat has been serving the Filipino poor for almost three decades now and her remarkable work with peasant communities reflects the Church’s social teachings on building a just and humane society. The illegal arrest and detention of Sister Pat is a blatant attack against churchpeople and advocates of human rights,” said Rochelle Porras, EILER executive director.

Fox was forcibly detained for “joining rallies” and without any further justification. The labor NGO stressed that the nun’s missionary work is neither a criminal nor an unlawful act.

“We demand the immediate release of Sister Pat and we strongly oppose her deportation. Hands off peasant activists! Hands off churchpeople!” Porras said.


Update as of April 25, 2018

Following a series of protests and global outcry, the Bureau of Immigration released Sister Pat on Tuesday, April 17. President Rodrigo Duterte in a statement during a formal ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines verbally attacked Sister Pat, calling the nun an undesirable alien. Duterte admitted that he personally ordered an investigation into Sister Pat’s alleged “disorderly conduct.”

The Bureau of Immigration recommended her missionary visa be forfeited on April 25, citing an activity held on April 7 as reported by Intel Agent Melody Penelope Gonzales. According to the BI, Sister Pat’s participation in the activity is a violation of the terms and condition on the nun’s missionary visa. Attached to the agent’s report are photos of Sister Pat, including one where she is bearing a placard with “Free All Political Prisoners” written and another where she is holding a banner with “Stop Killing Farmers” call.

The activity wherein Sister Pat is being framed for illegal engagement and interference by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) was part of the April 6-9 international fact-finding and solidarity mission in Mindanao. Sister Pat visited detained farmers in Tagum City as well as the striking workers of Coca-Cola FEMSA in Davao City as part of her mission and solidarity work on documenting human rights situation under the implementation of martial law in the region.

EILER stands by the people and Sister Pat, that she has not violated the terms and condition of her missionary visa. Her years of mission work on caring for the poor, advancing social justice, and promoting human rights are reflective of her sincere commitment to uplift the lives of the marginalized Filipinos.

“Sister Pat is only guilty of preaching the social teachings of the Church and serving the poor and the oppressed, including farmers, workers and indigenous people. We couldn’t stress enough that her work in defending human rights is not illegal, rather, an inspiring act of selflessness, kindness and compassion towards the Filipino people,” said Rochelle Porras, EILER executive director.

“We call on BI Chairman Jaime Morante and members of the Board of Commissioners to rescind the visa forfeiture order. The Duterte administration should unequivocally dismiss any charges against Sister Pat so that she can continue her missionary work in the Philippines,” Porras concluded.

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