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Pinay asylum-seeker loses appeal against drug conviction

08 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina asylum-seeker who was sentenced in a magistrate’s court to two years and three months in jail for possession of a dangerous drug failed in her bid on March 20 to appeal her conviction in the High Court.

Dionisia Balaneg, 45, lodged the appeal last year, questioning the police procedures during her arrest and claiming her sentence was too severe as the packet of drug for which she was charged was not found on her, but on the ground.

Deputy High Court Judge V Bokhary rejected the appeal and affirmed the magistrate’s reason to convict Balaneg on grounds that the two police witnesses’ evidence was “clear, consistent and transparent” despite “very minor discrepancies”.

In contrast, the magistrate said the defendant was “dishonest” and “unreliable”.

Bokhary referred to the magistrate’s account of how the plainclothes officer who accosted and arrested Balaneg one rainy night in November 2014 testified that he ordered her to stop after seeing her walking alone on a street, “looking left and right in a suspicious movement”.

The officer, who was 20-25 meters behind her, told her to stop. Balaneg followed the order, but as she did, she pulled something from her pants’ pocket and let it drop to the ground next to her right foot.
The officer saw that it was a plastic packet containing something he suspected was dangerous drug, so he arrested the Filipina. At that instant, another officer arrived and picked up the packet. The prosecution said the packet contained 7.06 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Balaneg said on the witness stand that she, her boyfriend and another friend were walking down the street when a police officer arrested her, after allegedly finding the dangerous drug in her possession. She suggested she had been framed.

The accused said no fingerprints were found on the plastic packet that contained the drug, and that she was not searched properly.

In dismissing the appeal, Judge Bokhary noted the magistrate’s finding that Balaneg had previous convictions, two of which were drug-related: in 2012, she was jailed for two and half years for drug trafficking, and in 2013, she was sent to a drug treatment facility after being found to have taken cocaine.

Balaneg was also convicted on three separate charges of stealing grocery items from Wellcome and Park N Shop supermarkets and jailed for 21 days. That was barely a year after she was given a suspended sentence for overstaying.

Records show that she came to Hong Kong in 2005 to work as a domestic helper, but her contract was terminated and she decided to overstay until she was arrested in 2008.

She had since filed a torture claim to qualify for cash support from the government, and began cohabiting with her Filipino boyfriend.

Soon, she was inhaling “ice”, an addiction that continued until her arrest in November 2014, according to the magistrate report.

“The appellant was evasive in revealing her drug history but urine sample collected from her in 2013 showed she was positive for drugs,” the report said.

Bokhary also dismissed the appellant’s claim that her sentence was excessive, referring to two drug possession cases in the High Court involving amounts of drugs close to the amount seized from Balaneg.

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