Senators weigh in on BI move to deport Aussie nun

MANILASenators on Wednesday expressed contrasting reactions over the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) order to Australian nun Patricia Fox to leave the Philippines for allegedly violating the terms of her visa.

The BI has cancelled Fox's missionary visa and directed her to leave the country within 30 days upon receipt of the order for her alleged involvement in partisan politics.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Australian nun's alien certificate of registration was also deactivated after BI intelligence agents found photo evidence of her alleged participation in an anti-government rally.

For Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, the BI's move was "correct" as it is within its power.

I think that is within the power of our immigration bureau, especially if the foreigner has violated some of our laws, he said in a text message.

I don't know the details of this particular case. But as to the theory being followed by the BI, they are correct as they have such a power, Pimentel said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson echoed the Senate President's sentiments, saying that the government is only applying existing Philippine laws in the case of Fox and the BI order, by legal principle, has the 'presumption of regularity.'

First, the Bill of Rights under the equal protection clause in our Constitution does not distinguish between foreigners and citizens of the Philippines. However, there is an existing jurisprudence that allows the Executive branch through the Bureau of Immigration to impose limitations on certain activities of foreigners that are inimical to the interest of the state. And that is what the government has applied in the case of Sister Patricia Fox, he said in a statement.

Lacson also cautioned government critics not to be too hasty in condemning the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte over the BI order, saying it is prudent to understand the facts surrounding the issue involving the Australian nun.

If there is sufficient evidence pointing to such violations committed by Sister Patricia which we are not completely aware of, by all means the BI must be supported by all Filipinos who love and care for our country's national interest, Lacson said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Tito Sotto III also said that the law should be followed at all times.

Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh, but it is the law). If that's the law, no one is above the law, Sotto said in a text message.

In the meantime, Senator Francis Escudero said the BI order is not about right or wrong but rather a question of a country having the prerogative to grant or deny a visa and for the applicant to have remedies in case of denial or withdrawal.

He said his application for a United States visa had once been denied even though he was already admitted to a US school.

I had to appeal it, same is true here, the Minority bloc lawmaker said.

Nevertheless, Escudero said he is hopeful that Sister Fox can return again soon and this misunderstanding can be clarified and resolved.

Opposition senators, on the other hand, assailed the BI order.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said that in issuing the order against Fox, the government ignored the almost three decades of the Australian nun's missionary work among the poor.

He said he would again file a Senate resolution to investigate possible abuses in the deportation of foreign nationals.

In the 16th Congress, I filed Senate Resolution No. 260 to ensure that the freedom of expression of foreign nationals is not curtailed. I will file a resolution once again to investigate possible abuses in the deportation of foreign nationals, Aquino said.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan called the order deplorable while Senator Risa Hontiveros said that it is outrageous and unbelievable.

Hontiveros also called on the BI "to review and overturn its decision to forfeit the missionary visa of Sister Patricia Fox and the order for her to leave the country.

Source: Philippine News Agency