Fox staying put for now

By Jeffrey G. Damicog

Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox is staying put in the country for now.

The Department of Justice yesterday issued a resolution granting her petition to review which sought to nullify the Bureau of Immigration’s order to forfeit her missionary visa. It also enabled her to prolong her stay until a decision is made.

In the resolution, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra pointed out visa forfeiture is not among the powers of the BI.

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

“This Office cannot sanction BI’s resort to a visa forfeiture, and the Bureau’s Orders against Fox which result therefrom,” Guevarra said. “To hold otherwise will legitimize BI’s assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws.”

Though he agrees with the BI’s stand that a visa is a privilege given to foreigners, Guevarra said that “this does not meant it can be withdrawn without legal basis.”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 stated.

The Justice Secretary pointed out that the case against Fox should have been treated as a “cancellation” case. “For this reason, we are returning this case to the BI for its proper disposition,” said Guevarra.

The BI issued an order last April 23 forfeiting Fox’s missionary visa due to allegations of violating the conditions of her stay such as not engaging in partisan political activities and gave her a temporary visitor’s visa lasting only 30 days.