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Has Duterte Finally Met His Match in Sister Patricia Fox?

Sister Patricia Fox at home in Manila
Sister Patricia Fox at home in Manila. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

ccording to a recent article in the Philippine Star “Australian nun Patricia Fox testified against the Duterte government before an international tribunal on Tuesday [September 19, 2018], narrating the political persecution she experienced.” Fox, had run afoul of the Rodrigo Duterte Administration when in April of this year, she traveled to Mindanao together with about 30 human rights representatives to look into alleged abuses by the Philippine government.

A different article, written in June, 2018 by Margaret Simons for The Guardian, noted that Duterte “declared in a public address that he had personally ordered [Fox] investigated for ‘illegal political activities’ and went on to publicly denounce her, saying she had treated ‘the Philippines like a mattress to wipe your feet on’.

So who is this septuagenarian who managed to ruffle President Duterte’s feathers? Patricia Fox, grew up in Melbourne, Australia and became a nun in 1969, at age 21. Simons’ article notes that Sr. Pat as she is called by some close friends, started working “in the inner Melbourne suburb of Kensington, helping the tenants of public housing towers. Bailing kids out and being a regular character witness before the court inspired her become a lawyer, graduating in 1984 and going on to work in community legal centers.”

Fox, arrived in Manila in 1990, “working first in the provinces and rising to be the national co-ordinator of rural missionaries in 2001”  according to The Guardian. From the moment she arrived, Fox was drawn to the plight of poor and marginalized farmers and agricultural workers. In April of this year, she traveled to Mindanao together with about 30 human rights representatives to look into alleged abuses by the Philippine government.

It was that trip that brought her to the attention of the Duterte administration. Mindanao was already under martial law, when Fox and her group arrived. While there, they visited a local jail, then met with striking factory workers. Later, at a press conference, Fox said a few words in support of worker’s rights. Her actions on that trip, according to the administration, placed her in violation of her missionary visa. So they ordered her to leave the country. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) cancelled Fox’s missionary visa. However, it was reinstated two months later, after a public outcry. But Fox still has other cases pending and her original visa, though reinstated, expires this month. So there is a strong possibility that the Duterte administration could still send Sr. Pat packing.

Duterte’s detractors point to the fact that the president has been picking fights with mostly women: Senator Leila de Lima, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Vice President Leni Robredo, and now Sister Patricia Fox. But the diminutive 71 year old nun might just be the toughest of the lot.

That’s because Duterte is being roundly criticized across the globe for his treatment of this frail septuagenarian, who dedicated 28 years of her life helping the downtrodden in far-flung Philippine villages. Her only crime appears to be speaking up for the poor under represented Filipinos.

Today, with prices of basic commodities on the rise, and the Philippine Peso at an all-time low, Duterte has all the negative publicity he can handle. Even his much touted 3-month blitzkrieg timeframe for eradicating illegal drugs has morphed into a 2-year stalemate. Nothing seems to be going right for the president at this point. And people are starting to question his competence and judgment.

But one important question we must ask ourselves is: is this any  way to treat a nun who selflessly gave 28 years of her life helping our poor brothers and sisters? Instead of condemning Sister Patricia Fox, we ought to be pinning a medal on her and thanking her for all she’s done. After all, we Filipinos are known as a friendly and hospitable people. So if we now see Sr. Pat as an “undesirable alien” and deport her back to Australia, what does that say about us? And how can we look ourselves in the mirror and be proud of what we see? Published 9/20/2018

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Philippine NewsLink: www.philnews.com

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