PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday said he personally instructed the authorities to investigate 71-year-old Australian nun for “disorderly conduct”, warning other foreign critics that they faced deportation.
“I ordered her to be investigated, not deported at once, not arrested, but to invite her to an investigation for a disorderly conduct,” Duterte said during the change of command ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Sister Patricia Fox, a coordinator of a Philippine congregation of Catholic nuns called Notre Dame de Sion, was nabbed on Monday and detained at the immigration bureau in Manila for almost 24 hours. She was released on Tuesday pending further investigation, according to Reuters.
Fox had taken part in rallies seeking the release of political prisoners and urging Philippine authorities to respect human rights, but she denied she was engaged in politicking.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said there was “probably” a need to apologise for the detention of Fox because she was not engaged in any political activity when she was taken from her home by immigration authorities.
“Perhaps an apology was in order. Clearly, there was a mistake,” he said early on Thursday in an interview with ANC news channel.
Roque said Duterte had to clarify his order and had taken full responsibility for the incident.
“It’s a violation of sovereignty,” Duterte said, accusing Fox of badmouthing his administration.
“You do not have that right to criticise us. Do not insult my country.
“We never did that to Australia. We never did that to (a) European country. Why don’t you criticise your own government, the way you handle the refugees, hungry and dying and you turn them back to the open sea,” he said.
Respect for the arrest order
Fox’s counsel said he was not aware of Duterte’s instruction but conceded that it was the president’s prerogative to order the nun’s arrest.
“We don’t have personal knowledge about it (Duterte’s statement) and if that is the case that is his prerogative. We respect his prerogative,” lawyer Jobert Pahilga said, as quoted by the Philippine News Agency.
“We cannot do something about it, if he said that he ordered it. Then so be it. We will just prove that Sister Pat did not commit any disorderly conduct that would make her an undesirable alien through the investigation in the (Immigration) Bureau,” he added.
Pahilga said although the BI has the discretion to issue mission orders, it should be properly implemented.
“The BI has the right to issue mission orders the problem is the matter of implementation. They should have not arrested Sister Pat, they should have conducted questioning and investigation first, because at the time of her arrest she did not commit a crime,” he said.
“Anyway, that is the prerogative of the president, being the president. I suppose there is no more need for him to issue an order to investigate Sister Pat because there is already an ongoing investigation being conducted by the BI,” he added.