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Gay Filipino Wins Asylum Case in Historic Decision

Philippine News, News Report, John Patrick Torres Posted: Jun 13, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a possible precedent-setting case, a gay Filipino man was granted political asylum on May 21, 2009 based on his claim that he would suffer persecution in his homeland for being a homosexual. Immigration Judge Loreto Geisse granted the asylum application of Philip Belarmino, a 43-year-old gay man from the Philippines, preventing him from being deported from the United States.

Immigration law experts generally believe that applications for asylum based on gender are nearly impossible to win. Belarmino also had to overcome the one year statutory bar for the filing of asylum applications from the time of entry in the United States as he filed his application more than one year after his arrival.

Belarmino was represented by Ted Laguatan, a certified immigration law specialist who has won major cases against the U.S. government and corporations not only in immigration law but also in civil cases involving millions of dollars.

Belarmino was an English professor in the Philippines for 17 years prior to his arrival in 2005 on a visitors visa. He testified that when he was 9 years old and again when he was 11 years old, he was forced to engage in anal and oral sex by older boys. And at age 16, threatened with a knife, a houseboy forced him to do oral and anal sex at various times. He testified that he did not report these incidents to his parents as he did not want them to know he was gay which would have traumatized them.

He also testified that he did not report the repeated rapes to the police as he was scared that they might just extort money from him by threatening to tell people especially his parents that he was gay- and even use him for their sexual pleasures. He stated that it is a well known fact in Philippine society that the police are corrupt.

The immigration judge was persuaded that the exceptions to the statutory one year bar applied because Belarmino had faced past persecution in the Philippines due to the forcible rapes and harassments and discriminations against him as a result of his homosexuality. Judge Geisse, who is known for her objectivity and fairness, also cited State Department reports that the police in the Philippines are generally known to be corrupt and that the Philippine government appears unable to curtail the corruption.

Laguatan stated that this is a major development in the struggle for human rights and stated: This decision by Judge Geisse gives a strong message to the world that gay people should not be persecuted for being gay. Persecuting gay people is no different from persecuting people simply because they are of a different color or nationality. This decision provides encouragement and hope to gay communities in their struggle to end discrimination and harassment against them.

The governments counsel congratulated Laguatan after the hearing for the quality of his representation, but has reserved appeal. The government has 30 days to appeal the decision. If it does not appeal, the decision becomes final.

Belarmino and his family were ecstatic over the decision. The former English professor said: I am at a loss for words as to what to say. Everyone including other lawyers said that it was impossible to win my case. I almost gave up, but Atty. Laguatan told me to hang in there and that what was involved here was very important that we were fighting for human rights and that no human being should be persecuted on account of gender or race or nationality. I also owe it to Judge Geisse who was very fair and sensitive.

Belarmino is the first Filipino known to have won a gender-based asylum case in court.

Laguatan believes that human rights lawyers and organizations and gay communities all over the world will be closely monitoring this case. If the government appeals and the decision is affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals then this case becomes the law of the land and it becomes a precedent for similar cases. But for the moment, this is a major victory for human rights he added.

Related Articles:

Gay Marriage Meets the Immigration Debate

The Triple Minority: Asian, Gay and HIV Positive

New America Now: Seeking Safety for Journos. Gay People and the Earth

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