By Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
Dear friends and colleagues,
Warmest greetings of solidarity!
The number of human rights violations by the Philippine government rockets at an alarming rate. Thousands have been killed by a heartless war on drugs, and hundreds more have been murdered, harassed, displaced, and illegally arrested by imperialist-backed counter-insurgency operations—all of them civilians. The culture of impunity fostered by the previous regimes has not only been inherited but patently aggravated by the fascist Duterte regime.
In this context, the work of human rights defenders grows more crucial than ever. Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun from the Congregation of the Sisters of Sion, has been doing missionary work in the Philippines since 1990. After 27 years of living among the poor in different parts of the country—assessing their conditions, working for their welfare, assisting them in the assertion of their rights as workers and peasants—she was arrested and detained overnight for doing nothing more than the human-rights work her missionary work, for which she had a visa, precluded.
As of this writing, she has been ordered to leave the country within 30 days, even as the investigation into her supposed “illegal political activities” remains ongoing—which to be resolved also requires her counter-affidavit, which she has yet to submit. Her alien certificate of registration has also been deactivated.
ACCOUNT OF HER ORDEAL
On April 16, around 2:30pm, six uniformed intelligence officers of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) arrived at Sr. Pat’s missionary house in Quezon City. They “invited” her—their invitation came in the form a “mission order” which they showed her but did not give a copy of—for random checking and verification of her immigration papers. She asked whether she could go to the BI office the next day; she was told she had to go with them right there and then. A fellow nun from her congregation accompanied her as she went to the BI with the agents.
They arrived at the BI office in Intramuros, Manila at around 4pm. Only then was she read her Miranda rights. No document indicating charges against her was shown. Nevertheless, her captors told her that she was being arrested for joining rallies and “illegal political activities”—for which she was also an “undesirable alien”—and that she would be detained overnight, and that she would be deported next day.
“No probable cause” was what the prosecutor in charge had said of her arrest, ordering her “release for further investigation.” No evidence after all has been offered by the BI attesting to her supposedly illegal political activity. Nevertheless, immigration officials insisted they keep her in their custody, with regard for neither her age nor physical condition.
After almost a day of detention, she was released from the BI after support from various sympathetic groups, particularly from the sectors she has actively supported, and was given 10 days to respond with a counter-affidavit.
On April 18, President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that it was him who ordered the arrest and investigation of Sister Pat Fox. This further elicited sympathy for the missionary nun and infuriation against Duterte’s tyrannical ways.
It is presumed that the state-sanctioned military abuses uncovered by the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) in Mindanao led by the KMP and other cause-oriented organizations on 6-9 April 2018 that probed on the human rights violations under Martial Law, was the motivation for the case against Sister Fox.
It has taken the BI only eight days to issue a written order, signed by Chairman Jaime Morente of its Board of Commissioners, forfeiting Sr. Pat’s missionary visa and downgrading it to a temporary visitor visa, as if the time she had spent struggling with farmers for land and with workers for job security were nothing but a leisurely vacation. She was also directed to leave the country within 30 days—practically a farcical resolution to the supposedly still-ongoing investigation for which she was yet to submit her counter-affidavit. Between her release and her receipt of this sudden and irregular order, no document that could be passed off as any sort of development in the case had been exchanged between her and the BI. The possibility of deportation has also been mentioned.
We urgently call on all supporters of Sr. Pat and the struggle for worker and peasant rights to issue statements, send letters, emails, and/or fax messages demanding a stop to her harassment, the withdrawal of the threat of deportation and the declaration that she is an “undesirable alien,” and that her missionary visa be returned so she can carry on with her decades-old defense of human rights.
Posts on social media—either on your own timelines or addressed directly to authorities—also reinforce the demand to put an end to the state harassment of activists, land reform advocates, and defenders of human rights like Sr. Pat. Let us call on the government: Hands off Sr. Pat! Hands off human rights defenders! Activism is not a crime! Kindly use the hashtags #ResistCrackdown and #FightTyranny.
You may send your communications to:
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80, 784-4286
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: Send message through https://op-proper.gov.ph/contact-us/
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline: 523 8481 to 98 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188, 377-2477
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Commissioner, Bureau of Immigration
Head Office, Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila
Voice (+632) 525-4143, 527-3248
Fax: (+632) 309-7752
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com, immigPH@gmail.com
Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government official to our address below:
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines)
217-B Alley 1 Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: +63(2) 460-9012