Aus­tralian nun forced to leave Philip­pines

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News - BY JIM GOMEZ

An Aus­tralian nun who an­gered the Philip­pine pres­i­dent by join­ing antigov­ern­ment protests used her fi­nal hours in the coun­try Satur­day to call on Filipinos to unite and fight hu­man rights abuses.

Sis­ter Pa­tri­cia Anne Fox left the Philip­pines for Aus­tralia on Satur­day night, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials said. The Bureau of Im­mi­gra­tion or­dered her de­ported in July, put her on a black­list and then down­graded her mis­sion­ary visa to a tem­po­rary vis­i­tor’s visa, which ex­pired Satur­day.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has bris­tled at crit­i­cism of his lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly by for­eign­ers like Fox, who he says have no right to med­dle in Philip­pine do­mes­tic af­fairs. Most of the crit­i­cism has fo­cused on his bloody anti-drug cam­paign, which has left thou­sands dead, alarmed Western gov­ern­ments and rights groups and prompted two com­plaints of mass mur­der be­fore the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.

Dur­ing a farewell news con­fer­ence in a Catholic school be­fore leav­ing for the Manila air­port with a con­voy of sup­port­ers, the 71-year-old Fox called on Filipinos to speak up and help the marginal­ized fight to gain land, houses and jobs.

“The big chal­lenge now is not to lose hope, to know that if we all move to­gether, we can bring about change,” Fox said.

“Pope Fran­cis said that if you’re a Chris­tian and there’s mas­sive hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions … you should take ac­tion, make noise. Where the op­pressed are, the church peo­ple should be there, not only al­ways talk­ing but with them and hope­fully more vo­cal,” she said.

Fox told The As­so­ci­ated Press sep­a­rately by phone that Duterte’s anti-drug crack­down was “hor­ri­bly bar­baric” and she vowed to re­turn to the coun­try if al­lowed to re­sume her 27 years of mis­sion­ary work for the poor.

“I know a lot of moth­ers, wives who have lost some­one. You have no right to take a life just like that with­out jus­tice,” Fox said.

Dozens of ac­tivists, la­bor­ers, priests, nuns and tribal peo­ple, some in tears, thanked Fox by cel­e­brat­ing a Mass in her honor be­fore send­ing her off to the air­port. A lawyers group back­ing Fox, the Na­tional Union of Peo­ples’ Lawyers, said that by per­se­cut­ing a frail and low-key mis­sion­ary, Duterte has turned her into an “overnight rock star.”

Known for be­ing soft­spo­ken, Fox is a co­or­di­na­tor of a Ro­man Catholic or­der of nuns and has worked for the poor in the Philip­pines. She pro­motes hu­man rights and the wel­fare of work­ers, farm­ers and eth­nic groups and has spo­ken against Duterte and his gov­ern­ment, which has also been crit­i­cized for sti­fling dis­sent.

The im­mi­gra­tion bureau said Fox vi­o­lated her mis­sion­ary visa by ven­tur­ing far be­yond her com­mu­nity in sub­ur­ban Que­zon city in metropoli­tan Manila and in­ter­fered in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics by join­ing protests and news con­fer­ences that tack­led “po­lit­i­cal and hu­man rights is­sues against the gov­ern­ment.”

Fox’s lawyers said she joined the marginal­ized as part of her mis­sion­ary work and called the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions “po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion.” They ex­pressed fears that the move to evict Fox could un­der­mine the cru­cial civic and re­li­gious work of for­eign mis­sion­ar­ies in the coun­try.

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