AUS­TRALIAN NUN FREED, SAYS SHE STANDS WITH POOR IN PH

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Julie M. Aurelio and Ma. Ceres P. Doyo @Team_In­quirer —WITH RE­PORTS FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL, CHRIS­TINE AVENDAÑO, STARLENE PORTILLA AND YVINN BORONDIA INQ

Af­ter al­most 24 hours at the Bu­reau of Im­mi­gra­tion (BI), Aus­tralian nun Sis­ter Pa­tri­cia Fox was re­leased from de­ten­tion on Tues­day af­ter au­thor­i­ties deter­mined that the charge against her needed fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Fox, 71, was vis­i­bly re­lieved as she walked out of the BI of­fice in In­tra­muros, Manila, around 3:30 p.m.

Upon her re­lease, the frail­look­ing nun told re­porters she did not join po­lit­i­cal ral­lies in the strictest sense of the word.

“As a re­li­gious, I’ve been join­ing pro­hu­man rights ral­lies for the farm­ers for their land rights, to re­lease po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers,” Fox said.

‘I call it duty’

“If you call it po­lit­i­cal, I call it part of our duty as the re­li­gious to sup­port and stand for the poor,” she said.

“I haven’t joined po­lit­i­cal ral­lies in terms of party pol­i­tics, but I have been ac­tive in hu­man rights is­sues,” she added.

She also ex­pressed sur­prise that the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment would treat her this way, as she has been liv­ing in the coun­try for the past 27 years.

Fox was ar­rested on Mon­day af­ter­noon at her home in Project 2, Que­zon City.

Six im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers brought her to the BI main of­fice in Manila around 4 p.m. that day, telling her that she was be­ing in­vited for ques­tion­ing.

Con­ces­sion

The In­quirer got in touch with Fox shortly af­ter her re­lease.

She was to be de­tained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bi­cu­tan, Taguig City, she said, but stay­ing at BI was “a con­ces­sion.”

With her in her de­ten­tion cell were two nuns from her con­gre­ga­tion, the Sis­ters of Our Lady of Sion or Notre Dame de Sion. Fox is her con­gre­ga­tion’s re­gional co­or­di­na­tor.

Fox said she was able to get her pass­port from the travel agency only on Tues­day morn­ing. It is now in the BI’s pos­ses­sion.

Her pass­port was due to ex­pire in Septem­ber 2018. She said she is in the Philip­pines on a mis­sion­ary visa which is re­newed ev­ery two years.

Nuns from Sis­ters of Sion in other coun­tries had got­ten in touch with Fox. So has the Aus­tralian Em­bassy.

The BI gave Fox 10 days to re­spond to charges against her, among which were her al­leged par­tic­i­pa­tion in ral­lies. It was her lawyer Jobert Pahilga, Fox said, who spoke with im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

Visa valid

In a state­ment, Im­mi­gra­tion Com­mis­sioner Jaime Morente said he ap­proved the rec­om­men­da­tion of the BI le­gal divi­sion to re­lease Fox pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

BI le­gal divi­sion chief Arvin Ce­sar San­tos rec­om­mended her re­lease af­ter it was es­tab­lished that Fox had a mis­sion­ary visa valid un­til Sept. 9 and was not an un­doc­u­mented alien.

San­tos said while Fox had been ac­cused of join­ing anti-gov­ern­ment ral­lies in the past, she was not do­ing so when ar­rested.

The group Pro­mo­tion of Church Peo­ple’s Re­sponse con­demned the ar­rest of Fox.

“When has it be­come a crime for Church peo­ple to ex­er­cise their right to preach the Gospel and be in sol­i­dar­ity with the poor?” the group said in a state­ment is­sued on Tues­day.

—MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Aus­tralian nun Pa­tri­cia Fox dur­ing her re­lease from de­ten­tion at the Bu­reau of Im­mi­gra­tion

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