ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: November 01, 2018 05:23 AM GMT
Sister Patricia Fox of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion congregation is leaving the country, where she has spent the last 27 years, on Nov. 3, the day her temporary visitor's visa expires. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)
An Australian missionary nun who drew the ire of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for joining protest rallies is being forced to leave the country after failing to get her visa extended.
Sister Patricia Fox of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion congregation is to leave the Philippines, where she has spent the last 27 years, on Nov. 3, the day her temporary visitor's visa expires.
The Bureau of Immigration has denied the nun's application for an extension to her temporary visitor's visa and told her to leave the Philippines.
"Under the circumstances, she is compelled to leave under strong protest," read a statement issued by Sister Fox's lawyers.
"We will not allow the government to forcibly expel Sister Fox … given her stature as a respected missionary nun and human rights defender," added the statement.
On Sept. 5, Philippine authorities downgraded the nun's missionary visa to a temporary visitor's visa, which was valid until Nov. 3.
"The fight will not end here. I will continue my mission with the poor.... I will not cease fighting against repression," Sister Fox told ucanews.com.
The 71-year-old nun said the non-renewal of her visa "is an attempt to suppress a religious apostolate that sides with the poor and oppressed."
The nun said that even though she has agreed to leave the country, she will return when a new president who is "more receptive to dissent" is elected.
"Duterte is president for only six years or less. I am forever a religious missionary nun. Tyrants don't last that long," said Sister Fox.
"Leaving what has been my home for three decades will not be easy for me but I have to follow the rules," she said, adding that, "it does not mean that I am giving up the fight."
On April 16, the missionary nun, who is the regional superior of her congregation, was arrested and detained overnight for "joining illegal political activities."
In a text message to reporters, Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said if the nun wins her appeal against deportation her name would be removed from an immigration blacklist and be able to return to the Philippines.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, head of the Episcopal Commission on Mission of the bishops' conference, expressed disappointment over the nun's departure, describing it as "unfair and unjust."
"I cannot understand why the president and his officials call a frail lady dedicated to a noble cause of mission an 'undesirable alien,'" said the prelate.
Bishop Bastes said the decision to expel Sister Fox only shows the government's "paranoid attitude" and officials who cannot stand criticism for their "evil deeds."
"Sister Fox, being a religious missionary, is simply fulfilling her prophetic vocation to denounce evil and to help the oppressed," said the bishop.
He said the Filipino people should be grateful to the nun for her "selfless dedication to the spiritual and temporal upliftment of our poor and oppressed people."
A church network of human rights activists announced that it would hold a protest on Nov. 3 to show support for Sister Fox.
Redemptorist priest Teodulo Holgado, spokesman of the Solidarity with the Poor Campaign, said the protesters will escort the nun to the airport.
The priest called on Catholic and Protestant parishes to encourage people to join the protest to show "strong disapproval over the government's decision" to expel the nun.
Mark Saludes contributed to this report.