The Department of Justice has nullified the orders of the Bureau of Immigration forfeiting the missionary visa of Australian missionary Patricia Fox and ordering her to leave the country in 30 days.
On the last day of the 30-day period given her to leave the country, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra granted on Monday her petition for review after finding that the BI’s forfeiture of Fox’s visa was “without legal basis.”
In a resolution, Guevarra stressed that while the Philippine immigration laws gave the BI broad powers in regulating the entry and stay of aliens in the country, visa forfeiture was not among those powers.
“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers, including visas, when they commit certain acts within the Philippine territory. What the BI did, in this case, is beyond what the law provides. That is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra stressed.
“This Office cannot sanction BI’s resort to a visa forfeiture procedure, and the [BI]’s orders against [Fox], which result therefrom. To hold otherwise will legitimize [BI’s] assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws,” the DoJ chief ruled.
While the DoJ declared the missionary visa granted to Fox as still valid and subsisting, the resolution nevertheless treated the ongoing case against the Australian missionary as one for visa cancellation, a procedure allowed by law and immigration rules.
With this ruling, Guevarra remanded the case and 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,” the DoJ chief said.
“It would, therefore, be premature for us at the DoJ to decide that matter now. For that reason, we are returning this case to the BI for its proper disposition,” the DoJ resolution pointed out.
Guevarra directed the BI to hear the visa cancellation case along with the deportation case against Fox, which is already pending with the bureau.
“Until a final resolution of the visa cancellation or deportation proceedings is reached, or until the expiration of her missionary visa, whichever comes first, Sister Fox may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines,” the resolution emphasized.
Fox, who has been in the Philippines for 27 years, was arrested by immigration authorities, in April.
She was accused of participating in political activities prohibited of foreigners--by joining rallies and fact-finding missions, a charge her lawyers deny and contend is part of her religious and pro-peasant advocacy work.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself ordered the 71-year old nun investigated for “disorderly conduct.”