DOJ welcomes move to question BI order vs. foreigners in rallies

MANILA -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) welcomes the plan of a lawyers' group to question the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) order prohibiting foreigners from joining rallies in the country.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the comment after the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) said it would file a case questioning the restriction outlined in a 2015 order signed by then Justice secretary Leila de Lima.

The DOJ welcomes any legal action questioning the state's sovereign right to restrict the participation of aliens in domestic political activities and internal affairs of our country, Guevarra said in a text message Saturday.

The BI is one of the attached agencies of the DOJ.

In a statement on Saturday, the NUPL said it believes that the BI's Operation Order no. SBM-2015-025, "which prohibits foreigners from joining, supporting, contributing or involving themselves in whatever manner in any rally, assembly, or gathering whether for or against the government", is unconstitutional.

The NUPL issued this statement after immigration authorities apprehended 71-year-old Australian nun Patricia Anne Fox in her home in Quezon City.

Fox was arrested Monday and was detained at the BI office in Manila, where she stayed overnight.

She was ordered released on Tuesday after the BI established that she holds a valid missionary visa and a properly documented alien.

Fox was apprehended following reports that she violated the conditions of her stay by engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.

Fox, who has been living in the country for 27 years, has made human rights and helping peasants her advocacies. She was arrested in 2013 for reportedly joining protests in Hacienda Luisita.

On Thursday, MalacaAang stressed that foreigners are prohibited by law to engage in any political activity in the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. mentioned this prohibition in relation to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's order to conduct a probe against Fox.

Roque said the Australian national is now under preliminary investigation, which would determine if she should be subjected to deportation proceedings.

The Palace official further stated that the President's directive for the BI to probe Sister Fox is in accordance with the country's law disallowing foreign nationals to participate in any political activity in the Philippines.

Malinaw po ang ating batas (The law is clear). Those in the Philippines are here because of our consent for them to be here. But they are not allowed to engage in any political activity, he stated.

Fox herself was also previously detained by immigration authorities in 2013 for reportedly participating in a farmers' protest in Hacienda Luisita, Roque cited.

Roque likewise underscored that there was no crackdown on foreigners who are critical of the Duterte administration.

This is not the first time a foreign national was detained in the country over similar issues, Roque stressed.

In 2013, authorities arrested a Dutch activist who was caught in photos taunting a crying policeman during a protest against President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency