The Department of Justice (DOJ) has nullified the Orders issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which forfeited the missionary visa of Sister Patricia Anne Fox and directed her to leave the country in thirty (30) days.
In a Resolution granting the petition filed by Fox, Secretary of Justice Menardo I. Guevarra declared the BI’s forfeiture of Fox’s visa “without legal basis.” In his Resolution issued today, Secretary Guevarra explained that while Philippine immigration laws give the BI broad powers in regulating the entry and stay of aliens in the country, visa forfeiture is not among those powers.
“Our existing immigration laws outline what the BI can do to foreigners and their papers – including visas – when they commit certain acts within Philippine territory. What the BI did in this case is beyond what the law provides, that is why it has to be struck down,” Secretary Guevarra said.
Secretary Guevarra agreed with the BI’s contention that a visa is a privilege. “But just because it is a privilege does not mean that it can be withdrawn without legal basis. The BI cannot simply create new procedures or new grounds to withdraw a visa already granted to a foreigner,” Secretary Guevarra further explained.
“This office cannot sanction BI’s resort to a visa forfeiture procedure, and (the Bureau’s) Orders against (Fox) which result therefrom. To hold otherwise will legitimize (BI’s) assertion of a power that does not exist in our laws,” Secretary Guevarra’s Resolution read.
While the Resolution declares the missionary visa granted to Fox as still valid and subsisting, it nevertheless treats the case so far commenced against her as one for visa cancellation, a procedure which – according to the Resolution – is among those allowed by law and the rules.
Secretary Guevarra ordered the BI to ascertain whether the charge and the evidence against Fox make out a case for visa cancellation, for which specific grounds are stated in the law. “The BI treated this act as a case for visa forfeiture instead of one for visa cancellation. As a result, the Bureau has yet to decide whether the supposed actions of Fox do indeeed justify the cancellation of her visa. It would therefore be premature for us at the DOJ to decide that matter now. For that reason, we are returning this case to the BI for its proper disposition,” Secretary Guevarra said.
The Secretary likewise directed the BI to hear the visa cancellation case along with the deportation case against Fox which is already pending with the Bureau. Until a final resolution of the visa cancellation and/or deportation proceedings is reached, or until the expiration of her missionary visa, whichever comes first, Sister Fox may continue to perform her duties as a missionary in the Philippines.