By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Women lawmakers today joined the mounting call for the immediate release of 71-year-old Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox who was supposedly illegally arrested and detained due to her human rights advocacies.
Gabriela Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas strongly condemned the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for reportedly taking into custody for supposed deportation proceedings Fox, who has been campaigning for the welfare of Filipino peasants since the ’70s.
“Sister Patricia was arrested and detained for merely participating in a recent international fact-finding and solidarity mission on the rights abuses in Mindanao. This can be a very loose pretext by the Duterte regime for nabbing anyone who stands up for human rights and against the attacks on civil liberties,” de Jesus said in a statement.
From April 6 to 9, Fox participated in the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao that investigated various forms of rights abuses against farmers and lumad in the Southern, Northern and Caraga Region.
“We cannot let this pass as it will widen the net of state forces in arbitrarily arresting activists and rights advocates. Sister Pat should be immediately released without conditions,” she added.
Reports said the Australian nun was taken by two teams of BI agents who went into her house in Project 2, Quezon City. Immigration agents supposedly claimed that they were just verifying her papers.
Brosas branded as ridiculous the BI’s action to include Fox in the list of those who will be immediately deported.
“This shows how desperate the Duterte regime is in harassing activists and criminalizing dissent. But by choosing to nab Sister Pat from her home based on flimsy grounds, this regime is only strengthening the growing opposition to Duterte’s iron-fisted and tyrannical rule,” she said.
“We expect more church groups and women human rights defenders to stand with Sister Patricia at this dark hour. Gabriela joins the mounting call for her immediate release,” Brosas said.
In a statement, the seven-man Makabayan bloc laments that the nun’s arrest was part of the Duterte adminitration’s crackdown against critics, the opposition and even human rights advocates.
“Sister Pat Fox is a long time human rights advocate, particularly for the rights of mostly poor and landless farmers in the country. She extended help to the Hacienda Luisita, Negros and Mindanao farm workers on their land cultivation campaign,” they said.
The progressive lawmakers also noted that Fox helped campaign for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform which aimed to distribute lands for free to poor and landless Filipino farmers in various congregations and participated on lobbying in Congress and Senate to convince lawmakers to enact a pro-farmers land reform legislation.
“The immigration department is barking at the wrong tree on this one. Sis. Pat Fox had a good standing status both in Australia and in the Philippines. Helping the poor is not a crime and joining peace activities to advocate for peasant welfare and human rights is not against the law. We call for her immediate release,” the progressive solons said.