November 14, 2018

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Australian Nun Who Criticized Duterte Leaves Philippines

Australian Nun Who Criticized Duterte Leaves Philippines
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MANILA — An Australian nun who had criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, including his brutal war on drugs, arrived home from the Philippines on Sunday, more than six months after the president ordered her arrest and deportation.

The nun, Sister Patricia Fox, 71, who has worked in the Philippines for almost 30 years, had exhausted all legal means to fight her expulsion from the Philippines. She attended her last Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Manila before leaving for the airport, accompanied by a motorcade of supporters.

She landed in Melbourne on Sunday morning, where she told ABC News: “The human rights abuses are just increasing. It’s a reign of terror.”

From Manila before her departure, Sister Fox said, “I will continue to seek justice for the victims and do all I can to support the people’s struggle for true peace based on justice.”

She added that she bore Mr. Duterte no ill will, but wished that he would consider the plight of the “poor and the small people, not just the military and business people.”

Sister Fox has long been involved in political and social activism in the Philippines, and since Mr. Duterte took office in 2016 she has spoken out repeatedly against his drug war, which has left thousands of mostly poor Filipinos dead at the hands of police officers or vigilantes.

Mr. Duterte cited such criticism in April when he said he had ordered the Bureau of Immigration to arrest and deport the nun. “You are a foreigner, who are you?” he said. “You do not have the right to criticize us. Do not insult us every time you open your mouth.”

Sister Fox, who spent a night in jail before being released, later won a reprieve from deportation when the Justice Department said the Immigration Bureau had overstepped its authority. But since then, the bureau has downgraded her missionary visa to a temporary visa, which was due to expire on Saturday.

“You cannot force the government to give you a visa, so I chose to go out and take my advocacy elsewhere,” Sister Fox said on Saturday.

The Duterte administration has taken similar action against a number of foreign critics of the president’s policies. In August, the immigration bureau detained an 84-year-old Australian professor, Gill Boehringer, at the Manila airport and barred him from entering the country because he had joined protests against Mr. Duterte.

Also this year, three foreign missionaries, including an American, were detained and deported in July after visiting the southern Philippines to investigate allegations that the army had carried out abuses there, including the December killings of at least eight members of an indigenous community in the province of Lake Sebu.

One of Sister Fox’s lawyers, Katherine Panguban, said they would continue to appeal her case to the immigration bureau while the nun is in her native Melbourne. “This clearly shows that this government is intolerant of dissent,” Ms. Panguban said of the case.

A spokesman for Mr. Duterte, Salvador Panelo, said on Saturday: “The departure of Sister Patricia Fox is a timely reminder to all foreigners who stay or sojourn in this country that they are not entitled to all the rights and privileges granted to the citizens of the Philippines.”

“She underwent a legal process where she was given the opportunity to be heard,” he said, adding, “We wish Sister Fox well in her travel, and we thank her for whatever good deeds she has performed during her stay in the country.”

Officials in the Catholic Church, which has considerable influence in the Philippines and has been active in the opposition to Mr. Duterte, said Sister Fox’s expulsion was a “blow to the missionary spirit” of the church.

“The government should have taken the moral high ground in taking up the case of the embattled nun,” said Father Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte has often expressed contempt for the church and joked about founding a religion based on himself. He did so again on Thursday, which was All Saints’ Day, during a visit to the northern Philippines.

“The Catholics are crazy. We don’t even know those saints, who those fools are, those drunkards,” he said in a mix of English and Tagalog.

“I’ll give you one patron saint so you don’t go astray,” he said. “Get a hold of a picture of me. Place that in your altar. Saint Rodrigo.”



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