PH seeks extradition of congressman's ex-mistress

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Sep 25 2012 12:09 PM | Updated as of Sep 27 2012 12:38 AM

LOS ANGELES - It was an emotional day for Grace Grande, a woman who claims to be a former mistress of a Filipino congressman.

On a day that a final hearing for her asylum request was to take place, prosecutors instead told an immigration court that the Philippine government has issued an extradition for Grande to face criminal theft charges. 

The extradition order now puts a hold on Grande's asylum plea. 

"This crime that they are telling that I did, I did not do this. And this man is, I don't know why he doesn't want to stop prosecuting me and I just want to live free, free from him, and free from all the abuse that he has done. That's it," Grande said. 

Over 60 family members, friends, human and women's rights activists were at the courthouse as Grande appeared inside the courtroom. Her two boys, fathered by the congressman, stayed inside a courthouse waiting room. 

The 40-year-old Grande says she is a former mistress of  AGBIAG party list Rep. Patricio Antonio and has been hiding in the US for the past 5 years. 

Living with her family, she has been working as a caregiver while her two teenage sons attend school. 

Grande says the family's lives would be in danger if they returned to the Philippines because of Antonio's political connections. 

After Grande fled for the US in 2007, one of Antonio's employees alleged that she stole P1.8 million worth of jewelry. 

Former political prisoner Ninotchka Rosca was expected to testify as an expert witness on the abuse of women and the culture of concubines in the Philippines. Instead she left the courtroom also surprised by the extradition order which she believes stems from bogus charges. 

"Do people get extradited for P1.8 million? That is ridiculous but this is not just about Grace. It is preserving the ceridal system the concubinage system in the Philippines. It's is preserving the right of these men, powerful warlords, their right to the women of their turf," Rosca said. 

Supporters have been helping Grande and her two children, financially and morally. 

They say the story of Grande is a reflection of political abuse and women's rights issues in the Philippines. 

They have begun a petition for Grande.

"More than just to Grace, if this can be done to woman, it can be done to any woman," Rosca said. 

Jollene Levid of AF3IRM (Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, Marginalization), said: "Throughout this process from the time she's set foot on US soil she hasn't lived a normal life. I think it's being heightened by this political and legal move done by her abuser but she's been living in a constant state of fear for the past 5 years."

Supporters now fear she will be detained by immigration officials again just like she was earlier this year. Grande is scheduled to be back in court in December, as her lawyers review the extradition orders.