Guevarra defends decision to let Sister Fox stay: I’m just following the law
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday clarified that he was just following the rule of law when he granted the appeal of Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox to reverse the Bureau of Immigration’s decision forfeiting her visa and ordering her to leave the country.
“The instruction for me is to follow the rule of law and that is what I did,” Guevarra said in a TV interview on Thursday.
Guevarra said President Rodrigo Duterte has given him instruction to always follow the rule of law when he appointed him to the DOJ post last April following the resignation of his predecessor Vitaliano Aguirre II.
He said the BI should have treated the case not for forfeiture but for visa cancellation, adding that under existing immigration laws, there is no legal basis to forfeit her visa.
“There is a distinction between forfeiting and cancelling. Parang kung iisipin mo pareho lang (If you think of it, it seems the same) but the BI itself said that what they applied was visa forfeiture rather than visa cancellation. So kasi nga meron ngang (there is an) exact procedure for visa cancellation and there are specific grounds. Whereas, yung (the) forfeiture, parang ginamit nilang basehan dun (that was their basis), it is violation of a condition in the visa or something like that but yun nga, wala yun sa batas (it is not specified in the law). Actually, the violation of a condition of the visa is one of the grounds for deportation, pag deportation, ibang proceeding (deportation is a different proceeding),” he explained.
Asked if the BI erred in issuing the deportation order, Guevarra answered: “Yung pagkakamali (the mistake) is jurisdictional in law that’s what they call a jurisdictional error under the rules of court, when they say it committed a jurisdiction error it could mean that it exceeded its authority. Ganon lang naman ang ibig sabihin (That is what it means). I’m not saying that the BI acted abusingly or in bad faith, it’s just you know something like in excess of its jurisdiction or in excess of its authority.”
On Tuesday, Guevarra said Fox can still run back to the DOJ or even to Malacanang if the BI cancels her missionary visa and orders her deportation.
In the meantime, Guevarra assured the 71-year-old Australian nun that she can continue with her missionary duties in the Philippines until the expiration of her missionary visa or the BI finally resolves its deportation and visa cancellation cases against her.
On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) granted Fox’s petition for review seeking to nullify the BI’s April 23 forfeiture order.
“The BI treated this as a case for visa cancellation instead of one for visa cancellation,” read Guevarra’s resolution on Fox’s appeal.
“For that reason, we are returning this case to the BI for its proper disposition,” ruled the Justice chief.
Apart from a pending deportation case, the BI ordered the forfeiture of Fox’s missionary visa due to allegations of violating the conditions of her stay and gave her a temporary visitor’s visa lasting only 30 days.
However, the Secretary explained that under existing laws the BI has no power to forfeit visas.
“What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Guevarra pointed out. (With reports from Rachel Bañares/OJT/PNA)