Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the recent order to Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox to leave the Philippines

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the recent order to Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox to leave the Philippines

It is unfortunate that the recent events that led to the Bureau of Immigration order directing Australian religious missionary and human rights defender Sr. Patricia Fox to leave the country appears to be bereft of due process.

We stress that the nature of human rights remains the same regardless of context. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, citizenship, colour, gender, or creed. That is why it is called ‘human rights’—the main standard is being human.

The Commission believes that foreign nationals should be able to exercise their civil rights for as long as they abide by the terms of their stay, including the domestic laws, of their host nation. Universal human rights, such as the exercise of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom to peaceably assemble, among others, should be guaranteed and respected.

In this case, all persons—whether Filipino or not—have the right to due process before an order or judgment affecting them is made. If we are to abide by the rule of law, Sr. Fox should be given the chance to explain her side and submit her counter-affidavit as required by law. The Bureau of Immigration, however, has already issued a notice forfeiting her missionary visa without due consideration of her defence and even ahead of a pending deportation case, thereby appearing to settle the question on her alleged “partisan political activities” unilaterally.

Sr. Fox, unfortunately, was not even given a formal copy of the notice by the Bureau of Immigration and only learned about the decision through media. To date, she now has no choice but to leave the country she chose to serve.

We are saddened that Sr. Fox, a human rights defender herself with years of humanitarian work for Filipinos, is experiencing a string of possible human rights violations. We hope that the recent events are not forms of discrimination against her considering the trend of attacks against human rights defenders—even tagging others as “terrorists.”

In the same way that our government asserts the rights of Filipinos abroad, our officials should be able to extend the same to foreign nationals in our country. And when the lines blur between humanitarian work and those other regard as political activity, a good safeguard against abuse are basic tenets of human rights and laws meant to protect—rather than violate—the rights and dignity of all. ■