Philippines: Imminent deportation of Sister Patricia Fox

25/07/2018
Urgent Appeal

New information
PHL 003 / 0518 / OBS 056.1
Obstacles to freedoms of movement
and expression
Philippines
July 20, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Philippines.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the imminent deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun who has lived in the Philippines for almost 30 years, and is known as an advocate for agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, urban poor, and peasants’ rights[1].

According to the information received, on July 19, 2018, Sister Patricia Fox and her legal team received the Bureau of Immigration (BI)’s order for her deportation. The BI 10-page resolution also said that her name was included in the BI blacklist, which will bar her from returning to the Philippines. Sister Fox will appeal against the order.

The BI ruled that Sister Fox violated the conditions of her missionary visa because she joined activites deemed to be political, including an international fact-finding mission in Mindanao, which aimed to document human rights violations done against farmers and peasant communities. Last April 2018, the BI investigated and arbitrarily arrested Sister Fox on the basis of an order released during the Aquino administration, which prohibited foreign nationals from participating in activities deemed political. The BI’s July 19 order came a month after the Department of Justice nullified a previous order to revoke Sister Fox’s missionary visa (see background information).

In its resolution, the BI noted that Sister Fox was granted a missionary visa on July 21, 2016, valid until September 5, 2018, "with a limitation that she will render her missionary work in Barangay Amihan, Quezon City". However, the BI accused Sister Fox of having engaged in political deemed activities outside of her community, “from north (Tarlac) to south (South Cotabato) of the Philippines”. The BI also said that Sister Fox had violated the limitations and conditions of her missionary visa, which allowed her to engage in missionary/religious work, not political activities, in the Philippines. The order further stated Sister Fox’s presence in the country posed “a risk to public interest".

The Observatory strongly condemns the deportation order against Sister Fox, which is an attempt by the Philippine Government to prevent her from continuing her work as a human rights defender, and particularly aims at punishing her for her defence of the rights of peasants, indigenous peoples, and the urban poor in the country.

The Observatory urges the Government of the Philippines to rescind the deportation order against Sister Fox and allow her to continue working to support local communities in the country.

Background information

On April 16, 2018, at around 2:30 pm, six uniformed intelligence officers from the BI visited Sister Patricia Fox’s missionary home in Project 3,Quezon City, Metro Manila. The officers then “invited” her to the BI for a random check and verification of her immigration papers and status. The officers showed Sister Fox an order” but did not provide her with a copy of the document.

After arriving at the BI office in Manila at around 4:00 pm, the officers provided a Miranda warning to Sister Fox and told her she was under arrest for “illegal political activities”. They also told her that she was an “undesirable alien”, and that she would be detained overnight and deported the following day. No documents indicating the charges were provided to her. She was released in the afternoon the following day and given 10 days to respond with a counter-affidavit.

On April 18, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he had personally ordered Sister Fox be investigated for alleged “disorderly conduct”. It is believed that Sister Fox’s arrest was a result of her participation in rallies demanding the release of political prisoners and urging Philippine authorities to respect human rights. On April 6-9, 2018, she also visited detained farmers in Tagum City, Davao del Norte Province, and workers on strike as part of an International Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) conducted by human rights and farmers’ organizations in Mindanao. The purpose of the IFFSM was to investigate human rights violations under Martial Law.

On April 25, 2018, the BI issued an order based on Section 9 of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, forfeiting Sister Fox’s missionary visa and downgrading it to a temporary visa, as a result of having “engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa”.

On May 23, 2018, the BI denied Sister Fox’s motion for reconsideration on the order revoking her missionary visa. Sister Fox subsequently appeled the decision before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On June 18, 2018, in response to the petition for review of the BI’s orders filed by Sister Fox, the DOJ nullified the two BI’s orders forfeiting the missionary visa of Sister Fox, saying that the orders had been issued without legal basis. The DOJ then returned the case to the BI to determine whether the charge and the evidence against Sister Fox actually constituted sufficient grounds for visa cancellation.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines, urging them to:

i. Allow Sister Patricia Fox to stay in the Philippines and continue to carry out her human rights activities;

ii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in the Philippines;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against Sister Patricia Fox, as well as all human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Philippines.

Addresses:

· H.E. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968, E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/
· Mr. Alan Peter Cayetano, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Email: osec@dfa.gov.ph, Twitter: @alanpcayetano
· Hon. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice of the Philippines, Fax: (+632) 521-1614, Email: communications@doj.gov.ph
· Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Fax: (+632) 929 0102, Email:chairgascon.chr@gmail.com
· Mr. Jaime Morente, Commissioner, Bureau of Immigration, Philippines, Fax: (+632) 309-7752,mail: binoc_immigration@hotmail.com,xinfo@immigration.gov.ph, immigPH@gmail.com, Twitter: @immigrationPH
· H.E. Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32 Email: mission@genevapm.ph
· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 02 345 64 25, E-mail: brusselspe@gmail.com

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Philippines located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, July 20, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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