This article was originally written in April of 2018. It’s September now, and I just thought I would update the story. This saga of Sister Patrica Fox is apropos for any foreigner considering life in the Philippines as it shows some interesting insights into Filipino culture.
A Catholic nun who has been in the Philippines for 27 years has been issued a deportation order for engaging in what the Bureau of Immigration (BI) describes as “involvement in partisan political activities.” (Because, ya know – those nuns are always up to no good.) The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has reportedly personally ordered the expulsion of Sister Patricia Fox for joining in protest rallies against his governmental policies. As a result, the 71 year old “undesirable”– who hails from Australia – has been given 30 days to leave the country.
The elderly nun was taken into custody from her home and held by immigration officials for 24 hours, which the Philippines Bureau of Immigration stated was for “processing.” Patricia Fox stated that she was surprised by the presidential order and hoped that they would change their minds.
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration announced that it had nullified Sister Patricia’s missionary visa following images on local TV stations of her joining a protest against perceived human rights in the Philippines. (Foreigners are not allowed to join in political protests.) The BI also noted her recent inclusion in a fact-finding mission to investigate abuses in the country’s ongoing war against communist rebels.
The Bureau of Immigration stated, “We direct Fox to leave the Philippines within 30 days from receipt of this order,” stating that she had “…engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa”.
Interviewed on Australian TV, the sister stated, “For me, it is part of my mission as a Catholic sister to stand beside those whose human rights have been violated, who are asking for help.”
Following her detainment by BI officials, the president stated that he had personally ordered her arrest in order to warn foreigners making critical statements against his policies. “I ordered her to be investigated… for disorderly conduct,” Duterte noted. “You do not have that right to criticize us. Do not insult my country,”
“You insult me under the cloak of being a Catholic priest, and you are a foreigner! Who are you? It is a violation of our national sovereignty.”
The President also noted that Sister Patricia was possessed of a “foul mouth” but he didn’t offer any examples.
The deportation order against Sister Patricia follows the deportation of the Italian socialist leader Giacomo Filibeck earlier this month, who had spoken out publicly against extra-judicial killings in the President’s ongoing war against drugs.
Since taking office in 2016, President Duterte has pursued his anti-drug polices which – according to Human Rights Watch – has resulted in the deaths of of more than 20,000 Filipinos. Those numbers were as of November 2017 and were calculated from the government statistics noted in the graph below.
This deportation case is similar to the 2013 deportation and subsequent blacklisting of a young Dutch activist, Thomas van Beersum, who joined a political demonstration and verbally berated a PNP officer until the policeman broke down in tears.
Update (September 2018)
Patricia Fox retained the services of a Filipino attorney and appealed the BI’s deportation order. In July, the order was upheld but she was again allowed to appeal. As of this date, the Australian nun is still in the Philippines and appealing the deportation ruling.
Selective Enforcement: There are many laws in regulations in the Philippines. With that in mind, it sometimes seems that they are only enforced when you gain the attention of someone in power and/or importance. In this case, Sister Patricia garnered the attention of the Philippines president which was like sticking her head up from the hole in a game of Wack-a-Mole.
Amor Propio: Secondly – and from reading comments from Filipinos in regards to the story – the national amor propio (face) was apparently violated and the majority of the Filipinos responding supported the President’s order to have Sister Patricia deported. The furor expressed by some of the Filipino Facebookers was somewhat surprising when contrasted against Sister Patrica’s 27 years of work with the Filipino poor. I mean, some of the commenters were literally infuriated (and rather vulgar).
Balat Sibuyas (Onion Skin): Filipinos can be a bit sensitive and thin-skinned at times, especially when it comes to “upstart” foreigners interfering in their affairs. This is quite apparent in the actual arrest and 24 hour detainment of a 71 year old nun. Although foreigners are not allowed to participate in protests, the BI could have simply given Sister Patricia a warning that she would be deported if she continued to speak out against perceived human rights violations in the Philippines.
Sister Patricia Fox has spent 27 years in the Philippines. She works with the poor and disadvantaged and from all accounts it appears as if she is a truly good and decent person. It’s a sad situation for someone who has basically spent her life working for and with the disadvantaged. Still, though, it serves as a poignant reminder to forefingers that we are not afforded the same rights as Filipino citizens and are expected to behave accordingly.
It’s different in the Philippines!!!