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CA allows Filipina leave to appeal deportation ruling

10 January 2020

By The SUN

The CA says it is unjust to reject a appeal only on the ground of late filing, especially if it is meritorious

In a rare move, the Court of Appeal has granted a Filipina former domestic worker permission to seek a judicial review of the government’s rejection of her non-refoulement claim, or a petition against being sent home.

Chona M. Atienza, who had overstayed her visa for two years before applying for refugee status in 2018, had told the Immigration Director that she feared being harmed or killed by a former boyfriend if she was forced to go back to the Philippines.

The Director rejected her non-refoulement claim, saying her fear was groundless, and that what happened between her and her boyfriend was a private matter. She was also told that there are other places in the Philippines she could move to if she truly feared for her safety.

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Atienza, 44, appealed the decision to the Torture Claims Appeals Board but her application was rejected not because of its lack of merit, but because she submitted it three days after the deadline.

She then sought leave for a judicial review of the Director and the TCAB decisions, but Deputy High Court Judge K W Lung dismissed her application on Aug 7 last year for lack of prosecution. This was after Atienza failed to show up for an oral hearing which Judge Lung had set for that day.

Atienza then went to the CA, which granted her appeal after a hearing on Dec. 17.
Atienza told the court the TCAB rejected her appeal against the Director’s decision because it was lodged only on Apr 20, 2018, three days after the 14-day filing period. She said she thought the time for appeal would be counted from the time she received the decision on Apr 10 that year.

In their reasons for judgment handed down on Jan. 3, Judges Aarif Barma, Albert Wong and Lisa Wong said they believed her reason for late filing. They also said: “It would be unjust not to allow the late filing of a notice of appeal where the appeal is meritorious. Indeed, nothing would be more unjust.”

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The CA said the Board should have taken into account the merits of Atienza’s appeal regardless of the procedural breach (or its being filed out of time) or its opinion that the applicant had not provided a credible explanation for the breach.


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