DOJ rules : Aussie nun stays in PH

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DAVAO CITY (June 19) — Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox will remain in the country, this after the Department of Justice (DOJ) granted her appeal to reverse the Bureau of Immigration’s decision forfeiting her visa and ordering her to leave the country.

The Immigration department has earlier ordered Fox to leave the country, citing violations in the condition of her missionary visa, but the DOJ reversed the decision.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra granted Fox’s motion for reconsideration, saying that the BI’s forfeiture of the 71-year-old missionary’s visa has no legal basis.

In reversing the Immigration order, Guevarra stressed “Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers – including visas – when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down.”

On May 25, Fox, through her legal counsels, asked the DOJ to overturn the BI’s leave order on May 17 forfeiting her missionary visa due to allegations of violating the conditions of her stay and gave her a temporary visitor’s visa lasting only 30 days.

Fox contested the BI order saying “there is no factual basis for the downgrading of petitioner’s missionary visa into a temporary visitor’s visa.”

“The allegation that she violated the terms and conditions (of her visa) is misplaced and unfounded. In the case of the petitioner, there is no mention in the report of the intelligence agents of the BI and even in its assailed order that petitioner’s presence or activities disturbed the peace and order of the country,” Fox said.

Guevarra explained that while Philippine Immigration laws give the BI broad powers in regulating the entry and stay of aliens in the country, visa forfeiture is not among those powers.

“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers—including visas—when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra added.

While Guevarra agreed with the BI that visa is a privilege, he, however, said “it does not mean that it can be withdrawn without legal basis.”

“The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” he added.

He said to tolerate BI’s actions is to “legitimize assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra said while the missionary visa is valid and subsisting, the case against her will be treated as one for visa cancellation, a procedure that is allowed by law and rules.

Guevarra ordered the BI to hear the visa cancellation case along with a deportation case already commenced vs Fox.

Fox was arrested in April after taking part in an international fact-finding mission in  Mindanao, following reports local farmers were being tortured and killed.-HVP/Newsline.ph

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