Australian Catholic nun Sister Patricia Fox speaks to the press during her release from detention at the Immigration headquarters in Manila on April 17, 2018, a day after she was arrested. Philippine authorities detained an elderly Australian Catholic nun overnight in what civil rights groups alleged on April 17 was a crackdown on foreign critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights record.
MANILA, Philippines — Australian nun Patricia Fox testified against the Duterte government before an international tribunal on Tuesday, narrating the political persecution she experienced.
Fox is among the 31 witnesses who would testify before the International Peoples’ Tribunal in Belgium from September 18-19, a list that also includes a Marawi sultan named Hamidullah Atar.
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A video recording of Fox’s testimony was presented before the international court by lawyer Kathy Panguban, who is among the missionary’s legal counsels. The proceedings were streamed live on Facebook.
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The 71-year-old nun who has worked for the welfare of laborers, land reform and peasant rights in her 28 years as a missionary in the Philippines caught President Rodrigo Duterte’s ire for joining rallies.
The nun was ordered deported and placed on the immigration blacklist after Duterte directed the Bureau of Immigration to investigate her.
But the nun said the political activities that made her an undesirable alien are a part of being a religious.
“As a human being, especially as a religious, we have to stand with the oppressed and what I was doing was listening to… the workers who are just asking to be [regularized]… the tribal people who are being sent off their land,” she said.
“So to me, it’s a human rights issue. To me, it’s what you do as a human rights defender, particularly as a religious.”
Asked why she thinks the president wanted her deported, Fox attributed it to Duterte’s sensitivity to criticisms.
“I think President Duterte is particularly sensitive about any criticism and particularly that’s in Mindanao… because the human rights abuses in Mindanao are increasing under martial law… I was there and I was listening and I was supporting the people who… are endorsing a report of what was happening there and particularly he doesn’t like outsiders, what he terms outsiders, criticizing [him],” she said.
Malacañang, meanwhile, was unfazed by human rights group Karapatan’s announcement that a sultan would testify against the Duterte administration before the international court, dismissing it earlier Tuesday as a “propaganda” by leftists.
The rights group said Atar would be testifying about the “human rights violations committed by the Duterte regime to the Meranaws during the Marawi City siege, and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.”
Karapatan described the IPT as a “global court” convened by the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, IBON International and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque belittled Karapatan’s announcement and described the trial to be conducted by the tribunal as a “sham.”
“Because that’s not an official proceeding; that’s a propaganda proceedings by the Left,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque said he does not know the sultan who would testify against the administration.
“It seems there’s one sultan that they selected amongst themselves. I was a godfather to a royal wedding recently and I think I met all the royal families, so to speak. Although the Constitution prohibits really the grant of nobility,” the presidential spokesman said.
“I don’t know who he is, and that’s a sham proceeding because it’s not an official proceeding, it’s for propaganda purposes,” he added.
Aside from Atar, Jerome Succor Aba, chairman of militant group Suara Bangsamoro, would testify on his allegation that he suffered religious discrimination, arbitrary detention and torture in the hands of the US Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Patrol.
Karapatan said the verdict from the IPT would be submitted to the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament and the United Nations Human Rights Council. — with Alexis Romero / philstar.com
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