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Bolante wants US to give him asylum

by Pesante/AJLPP-USA Saturday, Jul. 15, 2006 at 5:24 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante has sought political asylum in the US, where he has been detained after US immigration canceled his visa last week. A source in the Department of Foreign Affairs said Bolante asked for asylum about 1 a.m. on Thursday, Manila time. The information jibes with the report of the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that Bolante’s lawyer in Los Angeles confirmed he had requested asylum.

Bolante wants US to give him asylum



By Jonathan Vicente, Reporter

Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante has sought political asylum in the US, where he has been detained after US immigration canceled his visa last week.

A source in the Department of Foreign Affairs said Bolante asked for asylum about 1 a.m. on Thursday, Manila time.

The information jibes with the report of the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that Bolante’s lawyer in Los Angeles confirmed he had requested asylum.

The ANC said the Los Angeles-based lawyer, Roman Mosqueda, had talked with Bolante’s camp after US immigration officials arrested Bolante when he arrived at the LA airport from Seoul, South Korea, on July 7.

“My sources say he went through a four-and-a-half-hour interview [Wednesday] for a determination hearing [with an asylum officer],” Mosqueda told the ANC.

The lawyer said applying for political asylum is an option for foreign nationals whose visas have been canceled.

The Senate has accused Bolante of diverting P728 million in fertilizer funds for farmers to the campaign chest of President Arroyo during the 2004 elections. He repeatedly refused to attend the Senate inquiry, prompting the Senate to order his arrest.

US Embassy’s role

The ANC also reported that the US Embassy in Manila asked US immigration authorities to cancel Bolante’s visa. But US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Anne Kenney declined to comment on Bolante’s case.

“That is a political issue and it is inappropriate for me to comment on that case,” Kenney said.

The DFA source said Bolante appeared at an immigration hearing on Thursday. The source could not provide other details, because the hearing was conducted behind closed doors.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration Frank­lin Ebdalin said on Friday that the Philippine government did not request the cancellation of Bolante’s business visa.

Ebdalin said the government would not make such a request without any valid reason.

Bolante carried a B1/B2 visa. A B-1 visa is issued to a visitor entering the US on business. A B-2 is a tourist visa.

Because most business trips include tourist activities, US consuls usually issue a B-1/B-2 visa.

No bail set

The ANC said a US Department of Homeland Security official clarified that bail for Bolante has yet to be set. Initial reports said US authorities had set a bond of 0,000 for him.

The Senate minority leader, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., believes Bolante is being detained in the US not only for a canceled visa but for a more serious offense.

Pimentel said that if Bolante was being held for a canceled visa, he should have been promptly sent back to the Philippines.

The senator cited the case of retired general Raymundo Jarque and his wife, Xenia, who were deported by US immigration for having expired visas.

“The Americans did not receive them at the point of entry, but they did not detain him for so long as they sent him and his wife back. The Americans might be having a much deeper case [against Bolante],” Pimentel said.

Possible money laundering

He said there were reports Bolante was detained for violating the US money-laundering law.

“That’s what I’ve heard but we still have to verify it. But it’s possible that was his offense because he had been going in and out of the US for the last several months,” Pimentel said.

He ruled out the report that Bolante applied for political asylum, since Bolante is not a political offender.

“Political asylum is usually given to political offenders seeking refuge in another land. But criminal offenders are totally different. They are not political offenders; therefore, I don’t think Mr. Bolante is entitled to get that asylum from the US,” Pimentel said.

He said Bolante was held with the help of the US Embassy at the request of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

“It was not an interference, because the Senate asked for help; otherwise that might be an interference in the internal affairs of the country,” he said.

--With Ronnie E. Calumpita and ABS-CBN Interac



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