An Australian nun arrested in the Philippines for engaging in "illegal political activities" has been released pending further investigation after authorities became aware she held a valid missionary visa.
- Sister Fox says she was arrested by six immigration officials
- The Australian nun has been working in the Philippines for 27 years
- MPs are calling for her release
Her detention came a day after Giacomo Filibeck, a Socialist Party official from the European Union who had criticised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal anti-drugs crackdown, was deported.
Sister Patricia Fox, 71, was reportedly taken from her house and brought to the immigration bureau in Manila, said Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the leftist Bayan (Nation) movement.
She had taken part in a human rights fact-finding mission in the country's south, according to Mr Reyes, who also said the immigration department informed her about deportation proceedings against her.
"We condemn her unjust detention and the deportation proceedings initiated against her," Mr Reyes said.
"She is no criminal or undesirable alien.
"She has long been in the Philippines helping the poorest of the poor."
Sister Fox is the superior of the Notre Dame de Sion in the Philippines, a congregation of Catholic nuns.
In a statement seen by the news organisation Rappler, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration said the department's legal division had recommended releasing Sister Fox, and that her missionary visa was valid until September 9 this year.
"While Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions by farmers in the past, she was not doing so at the time when [Bureau of Immigration] operatives served her the mission order yesterday," the statement said.
"Fox should undergo preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her before the bureau's board of commissioners."
An advocate for human rights
Sister Fox had been involved with human rights missions on the southern island of Mindanao, where Mr Duterte has declared martial law.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said she had been working in the Philippines for 27 years.
In a series of tweets, CBCP quoted Sister Fox as saying she was arrested by six immigration officials at a mission house in Quezon City at about 2:15pm on Monday (local time).
The CBCP said she was detained at the Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros.
Sister Fox's attorney Jobert Pahilga said the fiscal in charge of the inquest recommended Sister Fox be released once she was able to produce her passport, which she had given to a travel agency arranging her trip back to Australia next month, according to CBCP.
The immigration bureau confirmed Sister Fox's arrest but declined to issue any statement until after the investigation is complete. Sister Fox was unavailable for comment.
Leftist MPs have vowed to hold a congressional inquiry into the deportation of foreign human rights advocates.
"The immigration department is barking at the wrong tree on this one," the MPs said in a statement calling for her immediate release.
"Helping the poor is not a crime and joining peace activities to advocate peasant welfare and human rights is not against the law."