Palace: Foreigners must follow the law

Sister Patricia Fox (center) The Philippine Star

Malacañang on Saturday said the departure of Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox should serve as a reminder to foreigners in the country to always follow the law, denying claims that the former was “compelled to leave under strong protest.”

In a statement, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Fox’s experience was a reminder to foreigners that they do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as Filipino citizens.

“The departure of Sister Patricia Fox is a timely reminder to all foreigners who stay or sojourn in this country that they are not entitled to all the rights and privileges granted to the citizens of the Philippines, including the absolute exercise of political rights inherently exclusive to Filipino citizens, as spelled out in Operations Order No. SBM 2015-025 issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI), approved by then Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima,” he said.

Panelo also cited Fox’s participation in protest rallies, saying it violated the conditions of her stay in the country.

“Undeniable is the fact that Sister Fox joined protest rallies. She has publicly acknowledged that joining these activities is part of her advocacy. Her participation therefore violated the conditions of her stay thereby mocking our laws, and abusing the hospitality extended to her by the host country,” he said.

Panelo reiterated that Fox was given due process of law, and was neither “compelled to leave under strong protest” nor threatened from expressing herself.

“To say that Sister Fox is ‘compelled to leave under strong protest’ is, therefore, misleading as it is erroneous. Neither is there ‘injustice’ nor ‘silencing or threatening anyone from exercising the freedom of expression.’ Freedom of expression remains unbridled in this part of the world,” Panelo said.

“Sister Fox was given due process of law. She underwent a legal process where she was given the opportunity to be heard. She availed [herself] of all remedies that she may stay in the Philippines but the BI upheld the law and denied the request for the extension of her visa, which is set to expire [on] November 4,” he added.

Panelo, meanwhile, wished Fox well and thanked her for everything she did for the country.

“We wish Sister Fox well in her travel and we thank her for whatever good deeds she has performed during her stay in the country. Such acts,  however, cannot exempt her from the punishment imposed by law as a consequence of her wrongdoing. Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but it is the law and obedience thereto excuses no one from compliance therewith,” he said.

“Our advice to Sister Fox is to follow the law whether here or elsewhere. Otherwise, the law of cause and effect will operate against her, as it did in this particular instance,” Panelo added.

Fox, who President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered investigated for supposed “disorderly conduct,” left the Philippines Saturday after her temporary visitor visa expired.

The Bureau of Immigration downgraded Fox’s visa to a temporary visitor status, which made it valid only for 59 days.

The BI ordered Fox’s deportation on July 19 after she violated “the limitations and conditions in granting the missionary visa…and order her deportation to Australia, subject to her submission of all appropriate clearances.”

Fox’s participation in political rallies and fact-finding missions was contrary to her conditions to conduct missionary work in her community in Quezon City, the BI added.