MANILA, Philippines — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra saves the day for the Australian nun Patricia Anne Fox, at least for now.
In a resolution issued on Monday, June 18, the justice secretary reversed and voided previous Bureau of Immigration (BI) directives that renounced Fox’s missionary visa. Guevarra has granted the Aussie nun’s petition.
But the extent of the decision is strait. Guevarra left open the possibility of Fox’s missionary visa cancellation.
The immigration agency forfeited Fox’s missionary visa because the she was allegedly “too political,” which goes against the 2015 bureau circular that “enjoins foreign tourists in the Philippines to observe the limitation on the exercise of their political rights during their stay in the Philippines.”
The Australian nun said that the constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech as well as assembly also apply to her as a foreigner.
Patricia Fox also stressed out that pictures of her allegedly at demonstrations cannot be considered sufficient verification for her visa to be renounced.
Guevarra added that the immigration laws do not empower the BI to forfeit visas of any individual.
“Just because visa is a privilege does not mean that it can be withdrawn without legal basis. The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” the justice secretary claimed.
Guevarra “ordered the BI to ascertain whether the charge and the evidence against Fox make out a case for visa cancellation, for which specific grounds are stated in the law.”
“The BI treated this as a case for visa forfeiture instead of one for visa cancellation. As a result, the Bureau has yet to decide whether the supposed actions of Fox do indeed justify the cancellation of her visa. It would therefore be premature for us at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide that matter now,” Guevarra added.
In comment to Guevarra’s ultimate decision to nullified recent BI orders, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday, “We respect that resolution by the DOJ secretary.”
There is still a a pending deportation complaint against Sister Fox at the immigration department. Guevarra ordered the burea to hear both the visa cancellation and deportation cases of the Aussie nun.
Fox’s missionary visa is about to expire on September 5. She has been living in the country for 27 years. — The Centrio News