Australian who irked Duterte wins appeal, still faces ouster

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine justice secretary on Monday revoked an immigration expulsion order for an Australian nun who had irked the president by joining political rallies, but said she still faces possible deportation.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Bureau of Immigration's cancellation of Sister Patricia Fox's missionary visa was "without legal basis" because the agency did not have that power. Guevarra, however, ordered the bureau to proceed with efforts to deport her for another alleged offense.

"What the Bureau of Immigration did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down," Guevarra said in a statement.

Until efforts to expel Fox end or her visa expires, she "may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines," he said.

A smiling Fox flashed the thumbs-up sign and told reporters outside a Manila church that she was relieved but added that she faces two more immigration complaints that could force her to leave the country. "At least, for now, my visa, it's OK," she said. "I am walking around legally."

Fox, 71, is a coordinator of a Roman Catholic order for nuns and has been working for the poor in the Philippines for almost 30 years. She has joined rallies against President Rodrigo Duterte and his government, which has been criticized for stifling dissent and for its brutal war on illegal drugs in which thousands of mostly poor suspects have died.

Duterte backed the immigration bureau's effort to expel Fox.

Duterte has been sensitive to criticism, especially about his drug crackdown. His administration barred a critical Italian politician, Giacomo Filibeck, from entering the country in April.

Fox's visa was revoked because she worked outside a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila where she had said she would confine her work. Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval has said her actions violated the terms of her missionary visa.

Sandoval said Fox faces a separate complaint of engaging in political activities, adding that if she is found guilty, she could face deportation and be included in a blacklist that would prohibit her from entering the Philippines even as a tourist.

Fox's lawyers argue that she has not engaged in political activities as the government claims. She has said her religious mission brought her to poor communities fighting for land, justice and survival — destitute Filipinos who are supporting her now.

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Associated Press journalists Bullit Marquez and Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.

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