San Francisco couple fearing persecution by Duterte administration granted political asylum

HILLSBOROUGH, CA — This is a picture of Rene and Joy Flores with their lawyer, Ted Laguatan.

It was taken on December 3rd, when San Francisco Judge Ila Deiss ruled that the Philippine-born husband and wife would be spared from deportation, and instead would be granted political asylum on the basis of their fear of being persecuted by the Duterte administration if they are sent back to the Philippines.

The Flores couple has openly condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, including his war on drugs by participating in demonstrations.

They also expressed their anti-Duterte views to the media.

This is considered the first political asylum case seeking protection from the Duterte administration that’s been won.

Immigration lawyer Atty. Ted Laguatan said he was able to win this case by presenting various news publications along with statements from various organizations and the Floreses condemning alleged human rights violations and extrajudicial killings committed by the Duterte administration.

“We have the documentation from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European nations, a lot of documentation which establishes that that government of Duterte is really involved in human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.”

The Floreses originally came to the U.S. in 2000 to visit relatives and then overstayed their visas, because according to Laguatan their families were concerned about then-president Joseph Estrada.

Since then, the Floreses have been very critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Laguantan hopes that this case will set a precedent — and that more Filipinos will be motivated to seek protection.

“It opens their hopes that this kind of relief is a possibility. That is why this case really has a great impact on Filipinos all over the world. And other lawyers will see this is possible so I’m sure they will use this relief for their clients.”

As an outspoken critic of the president himself, Laguatan said that this court victory sends a message not just to Malacanang — but to all Filipinos.

“By doing this I’m not only helping the people over here but exposing the terrible evils that are going on in the Philippines that every decent Filipino should speak against. Duterte do not own the Philippines. The Filipino people do.”

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told the media that he questions the ruling of the San Francisco judge and the truth about the Floreses.

“I have doubts on whether this couple is really an activist, or one who joins protests for purposes of their own political beliefs. I think they were advised by this lawyer to do things that will entitle them to a status where they can seek asylum.”

Panelo added that the decision of the judge on the Flores case was misplaced.

“I think the judge has been made to believe there’s been widespread attacks against journalists, against human rights activists, I don’t think that is correct.”

With their political asylum case approved, the Flores family can now legally stay in the U.S. and after a year, they can have their status adjusted and they can file for permanent residency.

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