By April Burcer
“A small step towards success,” was how Sister Patricia Fox, NDS described the Department of Justice’ (DOJ) decision to declare null and void Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) order revoking her missionary visa and order for her to leave the country within 30 days.
She was grateful for the June 18 DOJ decision, saying, “I was very relieved because I was unsure what my status would be after today. I’m relieved that the Secretary of Justice came out with that decision.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra nullified the BI’s forfeiting of Fox’s visa, saying that forfeiture of visa is not part of the Immigration Law’s implementing rules and regulations. Sr Pat received the good news while preparing for a Mass at Quiapo and a candle lighting event at Plaza Miranda.
Sr Pat has been staying in the Philippines for more than 27 years and helping farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, and the poor in their fight against human rights violations, poverty and other injustices.
Last April, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a probe into Sr Pat’s activities in the country, accusing her further of having a ‘foul mouth’ and ‘disorderly conduct.’ She was subsequently taken to the BI and detained for nearly 24 hours.
Her detention caused both a national and international uproar. Her supporters belied the Australian nun ever called for Duterte’s ouster nor has she ever spoke ill against the Philippines and its people. People from all walks of life expressed their support to the beleaguered nun and made her an instant celebrity.
On numerous occasions, the nun was driven to happy tears by the outpouring of support for her and expression of gratitude for having served the Filipinos. In one instance, youngsters shouted “We love you, Sr Pat!” from their car window when they recognized her riding another vehicle.
“The thing is that the DOJ said the BI didn’t have legal basis to cancel my visa. But as far as I know, the BI is still pursuing a deportation case,” Sr Pat said when asked what her next step is.
Guevarra said that Sr Pat’s case will be treated as visa cancellation where evidence will have to be presented during the hearings.
On May 30, lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives filed a bill seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Sr Pat.
Composed of Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, the bloc announced that the citizenship will be a fitting recognition for all the services the Australian has contributed to the Filipino people.
When asked whether she has plans to continue her work even with the deportation case still ongoing, Sr Pat answered, “As long as I can.”
In her message during an Eid’l Fit’r Solidarity Affair last week, Sr Pat said that the social injustices are caused by a system that does not recognize the rights of the people, which is also the root of the problems she is facing right now.
“I am already a Filipino, I want to stay here,” she repeatedly told her supporters. #