Updated: July 20, 2018 06:14 AM GMT
Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox attends the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization in Manila on July 19 when the Bureau of Immigration ordered her immediate deportation for being an "undesirable alien." (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Philippine authorities have ordered the immediate deportation of Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox after she was declared an "undesirable alien" by the Immigration bureau.
In a ten-page resolution released on July 19, the bureau found the nun "in violation of the limitations and conditions of her missionary visa" for reportedly joining partisan political activities.
Bureau spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said the board of commissioners decided that Sister Fox's actions were "inimical to the interest of the state."
The nun has also been put on the bureau's blacklist, barring her re-entry.
Sandoval said the bureau had received reports that Sister Fox attended political demonstrations, even holding banners with political messages, and wearing shirts representing leftist groups.
The immigration official said joining protest rallies "in collaboration with labor or cause-oriented groups is not within the ambit of the religious visa" granted to Sister Fox.
"Allowing [Sister Fox] to participate in rallies would open floodgates for other aliens to join rallies to the detriment of public peace and order," reads a bureau statement.
Nun expected deportation order
Sister Fox said she was not surprised about the new deportation order against her, saying it was already expected.
"We will file an appeal before the Department of Justice and will seek all available legal remedies," said the nun, who is also a lawyer.
She told ucanews.com that she was saddened at how the Philippine government perceives "living and working with the poor as a partisan political activity."
"To serve the poor is to amplify their voices and accompany them in their fight for their political, social, and economic rights," she said, adding that is part of her "missionary mandate."
"It is not political but rather religious," Sister Fox said in an interview after the decision was announced.
Harassment of government critics
Catholic bishops and other church leaders said the deportation order against Sister Fox "confirms our suspicion that this government is systematically harassing people who criticize their policies."
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Mission, said the nun has been persecuted because she defended the rights of tribal people.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the deportation order was a sign of "creeping authoritarianism."
The Ecumenical Bishops' Forum called on Christian churches to extend support to Sister Fox and to missionaries subjected to persecution because of their work with the poor.
"It is our responsibility as Christians to defend the faith and enlighten the government and those who judge us," said Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan.
"We should reiterate that the government cannot limit the definition of missionary work," said the Catholic prelate who heads the organization.
Sister Fox, regional superior of the international Catholic congregation Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, was arrested and detained overnight on April 16 for "joining political rallies."
The Bureau of Immigration forfeited her missionary visa on April 25 and ordered her to leave the country within 30 days.
On May 25, following an appeal from her lawyers, the Department of Justice reversed the bureau's order and reinstated the nun's visa that is due to expire in September.
The nun has been staying and working in the Philippines for the past 27 years and used to head the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines for eight years.