MANILA -- A Filipino couple critical of the Duterte government avoided deportation from the US by applying for asylum there, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Rene Flores and his wife Joy, who were granted asylum, "opted for an easy way out at the expense of the Duterte Administration," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
The Palace "never heard" of the Flores couple as activists in the Philippines, Panelo said in a statement.
“We consider the application of the Flores couple highly doubtful. Their attendance to political rallies and issuance of anti-Duterte statements while in the US are more of a stratagem of their lawyer for them to stay permanently in the US and to shield them from being deported,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the Flores case could set a precedent for illegal aliens to use politics as a "scapegoat."
"Their being critics have absolutely nothing to do with their criminal prosecution. They cannot hide behind the mantle of the freedom of the press and of speech when they are found violating the laws of the land," Panelo said.
The Flores couple flew to the US in 2000 for sightseeing and has since stayed abroad, Malacañang said.