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Australian Nun to Continue Human Rights Advocacy in the Philippines

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on April 24, 2018 09:16

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Sister Patricia Fox: “It is my mission to stand beside those whose human rights have been violated.”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun who co-coordinated the Notre Dame de Sion, a congregation of Catholic nuns in the Philippines, first visited the country in 1984. She returned in 1996 in response to the call of helping the poor in Asia.

A former lawyer who obtained a law degree in Australia, she advocated justice and peace, which explains her work with the farmers in the provinces of Quezon and Aurora, regions northeast of Manila, and in Mindanao.

On April 16, Monday, six uniformed officers of the Philippine’s Bureau of Immigration arrested her in a Quezon City home.

The 71-year old nun said in an interview she was politely invited to the bureau for some “clarifications.” A day later, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed he ordered Fox’s arrest, probing her for “disorderly conduct.”

In the light of the Philippine government’s human rights records, Fox’s arrest sets a precedent that many feared the beginning of Duterte’s crackdown on critics -- whether foreign or local.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said in Filipino, “I think … this means … they're already cracking down on people who oppose them.”

An agrarian reform and human rights advocate, the elderly nun was involved in an international fact-finding and solidarity mission investigating the fate of jailed farmers in Tagum City, about 40-minute drive from Duterte’s Davao home.

Around 27 local farmers were unjustly detained on trumped-up charges. The religious worker said the farmers were jailed for organizing their communities to oppose mining.

Duterte declared Fox an “undesirable alien” for criticizing his poor human rights records, daring the nun to also criticize the Australian government’s treatment of refugees.

The arrest was illegal; it was without a court warrant. Fox underwent an inquest procedure for the allegation that she joined political rallies against the government. But the arresting officers showed no evidence for the charge. The only manufactured proof was a picture of Fox with prisoners behind a “Stop Killing Farmers” banner which was taken during a visit to a Tagum jail, with the approval of the jail warden.

Fox, who was held in the immigration bureau for 24 hours, stood her ground to continue with her advocacy.

“For me, it is part of my mission as a Catholic sister to stand beside those whose human rights have been violated, who are asking for help,” Fox told ABC TV.

Asked if she was scared, Fox said was not because she did nothing unlawful. She’s been advocating human rights in the Philippines for 27 years.

“My appearance is Australian, but my heart is Filipino,” she said.

Duterte’s government seems desperate in silencing critics of his human rights violations, especially in relation to his notorious war on drugs and mishandling of criminal justice. It also appears the strongman-wannabe is particular in singling out women who stand their ground for truth and for what is right.

The world does not lack people like Sister Patricia who fight for justice with courage. It's everyone's responsibility, too.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on April 24, 2018 09:16

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Source: NBC New York

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, left, is welcomed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines, on...

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