World News

Australian Nun in Philippines Gets Deportation Reprieve

Posted June 18, 2018 1:32 p.m. EDT

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Justice Department has nullified an order to deport an Australian nun who was arrested after joining street protests criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

The justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, said the order expelling Sister Patricia Fox, 71, was “without legal basis” because the Bureau of Immigration did not explicitly have the power to declare her visa forfeit.

“What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides — that is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra said.

He said that withdrawing Fox’s visa without any legal basis was tantamount to creating “new procedures or new grounds.”

Duterte had supported the deportation, saying in April: “It was not the military who arrested this nun, the Catholic nun from Australia. It was upon my orders, implemented by the Bureau of Immigration. And I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident.”

He also said then: “You are a foreigner, who are you? You do not have the right to criticize us. Do not insult us every time you open your mouth.”

Fox, a longtime resident of the Philippines, said she was relieved but still could be forced to leave because of two other immigration complaints, The Associated Press reported. “At least, for now, my visa, it’s OK,” it quoted her as saying. “I am walking around legally.”

On Monday, the justice secretary ordered the immigration bureau to review its case against her again, pending a final disposition.

Until then, he said, “Sister Fox may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines.”

The reprieve came at a time of increasing opposition by the Roman Catholic Church, which is an influential voice in the country, to the wave of killings under the Duterte administration.

Three priests who spoke out against the crackdown have been killed since December, the latest of which was the Rev. Richmond Nilo, who was shot eight days ago as he was preparing to celebrate Mass in his chapel in the northern Philippines.

Police have said the attacks do not appear to be connected.

They have coincided with Duterte’s stepping up his verbal attacks on the church, which openly campaigned against him. Recently, he poked fun at church officials and asked Catholics to stop giving money to the church.

“We will have a new religion. It will be called the Church of Rodrigo. There will be no limit,” the president said.