MANILA MalacaAang on Tuesday dismissed as ignorant the decision of a US immigration judge granting asylum to a Filipino couple critical of the Duterte administration for fear of persecution from the government if they are sent back home.
On December 3, San Francisco Immigration Judge Ila Deiss granted a reprieve from deportation to Philippine-born couple Rene and Joy Flores, who flew to the US initially to visit their relatives, but later participated in protests against President Rodrigo Duterte.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, said the couple's application was "highly doubtful" since they have been illegally overstaying in the US.
He claimed the couple's application for asylum was a stratagem of their lawyer for them to stay permanently in the US and to shield them from being deported".
The ignorant granting of the judge of their application would therefore set a dangerous precedent to other illegal aliens who can abusively use politics as a scapegoat in violating immigration laws of the United States, Panelo said in a statement.
Apparently, they have opted for an easy way out at the expense of the Duterte Administration, Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said.
Panelo also denied that critics of the administration are immediately subjected to persecution when sent back to the country.
The Office of the President reiterates that this Administration does not resort to any form of persecution and welcomes criticisms as long as they are based on facts and not on rumors or fake information, Panelo said.
No citizen of this country has been charged in court nor clamped in jail by reason of criticism against the policies of the present government, he added.
Panelo said he found it amusing that asylum was granted in favor of the Flores couple, considering that the Palace has never heard of the couple being political activists.
If they happen to be critics and they presently face criminal charges, it is because both the administrative and judicial officers found probable cause for certain infringement of laws and for which by law should be properly charged, Panelo said.
Their being critics have absolutely nothing to with their criminal prosecution. They can not hide behind the mantle of the freedom of the press and of speech when they are found violating the laws of the land, he added.
Reports showed that the couple's counsel, Filipino immigration lawyer Ted Laguatan argued before the US court that his clients faced serious risks if they return to the Philippines for being openly against Duterte's anti-human policies.
Laguatan presented clippings from publications on the Floreses joining protests and quotes of their anti-Duterte statements; documentation of alleged human rights violations documented by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; and arguments for political asylum under the Convention against Torture. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency