Deadline extended for Australian nun to leave the Philippines

Sister Patricia Fox gets a reprieve from the country's Justice Department
Deadline extended for Australian nun to leave the Philippines

Sister Patricia Fox appears before the Philippines' Justice Department on May 25 to appeal for a review of the immigration bureau's order for her to leave the country immediately. (Photo by Jire Carreon/ucanews.com)

An Australian nun who has been ordered to leave the Philippines for alleged involvement in partisan political activities got a reprieve after the country's Justice Department allowed her to extend her stay.

Catholic missionary Sister Patricia Fox, however, said it was a "temporary victory," adding that she will not remain complacent because it was President Rodrigo Duterte who wanted her out of the country.

The elderly Australian nun's participation in a "fact-finding" mission into alleged rights abuses in the southern Philippines due to the declaration of martial law drew the ire of the president.

The Bureau of Immigration gave the 71-year-old nun until June 18, to leave the country following her last-minute appeal before the Justice Department on May 25 to reverse an earlier leave order.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the immigration bureau to comment on Sister Fox’s petition for review within a non-extendable period of 10 days.

In his order, Guevarra reiterated that the Justice Department "exercises supervision and control over the [bureau of Immigration]."

But lawyer Robert Pahilga, the nun's counsel, said the June 18 date is not a deadline for Sister Fox to leave the country "but the date that the bureau’s order should have become final and executory."

In a statement, the nun's lawyer said the Justice Department's decision "removes the anxiety and concern that she will be arrested anytime by the agents of the bureau."

Sister Fox went to the Department of Justice on May 25 to appeal for the reinstatement of her missionary visa, which was earlier downgraded by the immigration bureau.

Duterte has admitted ordering the bureau to investigate the nun because of "disorderly conduct." He said Sister Fox's remarks against the government constitute a "violation of sovereignty."

The president has accused the Australian nun of having a "shameful mouth" and of treating the Philippines like a "mattress to wipe your feet."

Sister Fox has spent almost three decades in the country as a missionary in rural poor communities. She is the regional superior of the Our Lady of Sion congregation in the Philippines.

The Philippines' immigration bureau revoked the missionary visa of Sister Fox last month over her alleged involvement in "partisan political activities" in the country.

The nun was arrested by authorities on April 16 and was detained overnight before an order to leave the country was issued.

The bureau forfeited her missionary visa, which was due to expire on Sept. 5, on April 23. Sister Fox's alien certificate of registration was also "deactivated."

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