MANILA — Malacañang on Monday rejected claims made by Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox of a “reign of terror and tyranny” in the Philippines under President Rodrigo R. Duterte due to the rising number of alleged human rights abuses in the country.
Fox, who returned to Australia on Sunday, faces a deportation order for violating the conditions of her stay and for undesirability, due to her alleged participation in partisan political activities.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo explained that there is a “reign of fear” in the Philippines for violators of the law and not a “reign of terror and tyranny” as Fox described.
“Perhaps what she refers to is a reign of fear on the part of those who violate the law. They know for a fact that there is a reign of strict enforcement of the law against violators of the law,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“There is no reign of terror and tyranny in the Philippines. There is only a reign of fear in the minds and hearts of those who violated the law. They are terrified that the law is finally running after them. What we have is a reign of strict enforcement of laws,” he added.
Panelo described Fox as a “violator” herself although noted that the Palace was still grateful for her almost three-decades worth of services working with laborers, farmers, and the urban poor.
“Well, she was a violator, that’s precisely why she departed from this country. But that is not to say that we are not thankful of her services,” Panelo said.
“As we have said, we are grateful for the good deeds she has performed. But that will not exempt her from the punishment imposed by law arising from violations of the same,” he added.
Panelo reiterated that all foreigners who stay as journalists in the country do not have political rights, and that includes the freedom of expression.
“They cannot be joining rallies and join the mass action and speak against the government – they cannot do that. They should be first become citizens of the land to enjoy such rights,” Panelo said.
He further said that Fox’s departure should serve as a “timely reminder” for those foreigners that “they do not enjoy the same political rights as the citizens of the land.”
“You cannot rally against the government – that is one. You cannot join political parties – that’s another. You cannot be speaking on radio and television attacking the government, that’s another,” Panelo said.
Panelo, meanwhile, said Fox is still entitled to her own opinion while she remains in her own country.
Fox left the Philippines after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) earlier denied her application to extend her temporary visitor’s visa.
Her missionary visa expired on September 5 but was given a temporary visitor’s visa with a 59-day validity or until November 3.
“Sister Fox will leave the Philippines with a clear conscience that she has done nothing wrong and illegal during her 27 years of stay in the country. She is and will always be loved by the Filipino people,” a statement from Fox’s camp read.
“Sister Pat will continue her missionary and human rights work wherever she may be. She will continue to stand for the oppressed and speak about injustices against the Filipino people,” it added.
Support for drug war
Citing survey results, Panelo said 69 percent or a sizeable majority of Filipinos acknowledge the efforts of the current administration to eradicate the problem of illegal drugs in the country as its most important achievement.
“These figures immediately repudiate Sister Fox’s misplaced, if not offensive, remarks towards our country,” Panelo said.
He further described Fox as a “classic case of an in-appreciative tourist who saw nothing good and complained about the country which graciously extended hospitality.”
Panelo also stressed that the Duterte administration continues to adhere to the rule of law despite what human rights groups and critics say.
“The President follows the command of the Constitution for him to enforce the laws of the land regardless of who is involved. Let no person, therefore, take lightly the President’s duty to serve and protect the people,” Panelo said. (PNA)