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BI and the rule of law

Sister Patricia Fox was “invited” to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on April 16, detained, and then released the next day. A press release from the BI (which can be accessed at its website) stated that Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente approved the recommendation of BI legal division head Arvin Cesar Santos that she be released.

According to the press release, Santos apparently had a Note with Recommendation that the BI operatives should not have served her the mission order because she was not caught in flagrante violating immigration laws. And that she is not covered by inquest proceedings (which apparently was what they had intended to do) because “the latter will only apply to aliens arrested after being caught in flagrante violating immigration laws.”

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Santos also outlined the procedure under BI rules: “Fox should undergo preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her before the Bureau’s Board of Commissioners.”

Got that, Reader? The BI admitted its mistake, and outlined what was the legal procedure. And Morente approved it. On April 17. All was well. It seemed that the rule of law reigned supreme.

Then, on April 18, in a speech before the military, President Duterte said: “It was upon my orders, implemented by the BI, and I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident… I ordered her to be investigated, not deported at once, not arrested, but invite her to an investigation for disorderly conduct.”

So, Reader, it seems that the BI, in its enthusiasm to obey the President, got carried away and temporarily cut corners. But it found its bearings rather quickly. And even presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had found it in his heart to apologize (that same day, but before he heard his master’s voice): “Siguro apologies are in order kasi madalian naman siyang pinalabas din ng BID. Siguro, nagkakamali rin naman ang BID.”  (It was a reference to the BI’s former name: Bureau of Immigration and Deportation.) Again, all was well.

And then the sh*t hit the fan, with the President engaging in a tirade against Foxy (her nickname), in the very same speech: “Huwag mo papasukin kasi walanghiya ang bunganga ng madre na yan…. Ikaw, madre, why don’t you criticize your own government, the way you (referring to the Australian government—SCM) handled the refugees, hungry and dying, and you turned them back to the open sea? (Foxy actually did.—SCM). Bakit hindi ka magyakyak doon?”

Reader, can you imagine talking that way 1) about a nun, 2) about a nun who has spent 27 years of her life in the Philippines, living and working among the poor and marginalized (she studied law after she arrived in the country—obviously to be able to help them more concretely), and 3) at a formal change of command ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines?

I cringe and cover my face in shame, for the Philippines and Filipinos. Our country is, we are, so much better than that. We have manners, we have morals, we have values—and we are grateful to one who has spent almost 30 years of her life with us. Sister Patricia Fox has been, throughout that time, an asset to the country’s poor. If she is forced to leave the Philippines, the poor will lose an asset they can ill afford to lose.

Naturally, the President’s tirade was taken as a here’s-your-marching-order kind of statement, at least by the BI. Because one week later, it came out with a press release mangling the English language, with Morente  saying: “We (the Board of Commissioners) direct Fox to leave the Philippines within 30 days from receipt of this order.”

Which is a lot of hot air, as shown by the same press release. Because BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said the deportation case is still pending, and “it is only after the parties have been heard will the case be submitted to the Board of Commissioners for their deliberation on whether or not she will be deported…”

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Did you notice, Reader? Morente is just ordering her to leave; no legal force there. An order of deportation is what is necessary, and as Santos and Mangrobang gently remind us, there are legal procedures. I am so glad that technocrats in the BI insist on the rule of law.

There is hope.

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TAGS: Australian, Get Real, Immigration, Morente, nun, Sister Fox
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