Binay, Pangilinan hit Bureau of Immigration over nun's arrest

MANILA, Philippines – Senators Nancy Binay and Francis Pangilinan slammed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the arrest of 71-year-old Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox, saying that it abused its authority.

Binay questioned the basis of the arrest and how an elderly nun could be a threat to the country. For the senator, there is no clear and present danger.

"Apparently, the Bureau of Immigration used excessive authority in connection with the arrest of Sister Patricia, and has acted on a mistaken perception plucked from an imaginary threat. Ang tanong eh (The question is), how can a 71-year-old nun be a threat to society?" Binay said in a statement.

Instead of running after Fox, the BI should run after Chinese syndicates involved in drugs and crime, she added.

"How can an Australian religious person be as outlawed as those Chinese syndicates in the country involved in drugs, gambling, and prostitution?" Binay said.

"Sister Patricia has been helping farmers, Lumad, and those in the marginalized sectors of society. Pa'no naging krimen ang pagtulong sa kapwa (How did helping others become a crime)? What threat does preaching the Word of God pose to society?" she added.

"Siguro ang kailangan pagtuunan ng pansin ng BI eh 'yung mga illegal aliens na nagpapasok ng droga, 'yung mga involved sa human smuggling at child pornography at 'yung nasa terror list ng AFP (Maybe the BI should instead focus on illegal aliens who smuggle drugs, those involved in human smuggling and child pornography, as well as those in the terror list of the AFP)."

Binay said that while it is the BI's mandate to secure the country from foreigners deemed threats to national security, it should never use its powers as "a political tool."

Fox, Mother Superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, was arrested by BI agents on Monday, April 16, following a mission order issued by Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente.

Fox has been living in the Philippines for 27 years as a lay missionary and has been active in human rights fact-finding missions in Mindanao.

Pangilinan, a minority senator and president of the Liberal Party, expressed concern over Fox's arrest, especially after the deportation of a European socialist party official. President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly slammed the European Union (EU) for its supposed interference in domestic affairs.

"The emerging trend on crackdown against foreign activists in the country is alarming as exhibited by the harassment and casual arrests of the two human rights advocates, who were not even in protest activities or rallies when taken into custody," Pangilinan said.

He said the actions against the foreigners would trigger even more questions on what the Duterte administration is trying to hide. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.