The Department of Justice through its Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (RSPPU) is expected to resolve this week whether or not to grant the request for asylum of beleaguered Iranian beauty queen Bahareh Zare Bahari.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete revealed that the RSPPU is trying to determine whether there is basis to grant asylum status to Bahari, 31 years old, who was held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last October 17 upon her arrival from Dubai for allegedly assaulting a fellow Iranian national in the Philippines. This reportedly resulted in the issuance of an Interpol Red Notice against her.
“Hopefully by this week, the RSPPU would be able to finish its appreciation of evidence on the application for asylum filed by Ms. Bahari,” Perete said.
“I have seen so far the evidence presented and I do not know how the RSPPU will decide on the case. But based on the evidence presented to us she claims that she was politically persecuted because of her political views. I think one of the allegations is that her political views manifested in the fact that she joined the beauty pageant, which is totally forbidden in Iran; she also used the old flag of Iran; and she also refused to use the veil. So that is where the persecution against her is coming from,” Perete said.
Bahari was Iran’s representative in the Miss Intercontinental 2018 pageant held in Manila.
The RSPPU is an office under the administrative supervision of the DOJ and is made up of independent state counsels. In making its decision on a petition, it does not need the approval of the DOJ Secretary. But the DOJ Secretary can review its decision.
Perete explained that while waiting for the resolution on her application for asylum, Perete said the Iranian beauty queen remained in the custody of the BI at NAIA Terminal 3.
According to him, there is no guard assigned to her and she could freely go around inside the airport but she is not allowed to leave the airport because “in so far as the BI is concerned she is still an excluded individual, until such time that they have a decision on her asylum petition.”
Perete admitted that this year alone, the RSPPU has so far came out with decisions on three asylum petitions, that included a Syrian national.
However, RSPPU does not publicize their decisions on petitions for asylums. “Most often, especially if you alleged political persecution, it is a very sensitive issue. So most often, it really depends on the applicant if he or she wants to have it publicized or not. Besides, under our rules, we keep things confidential,” the DOJ official explained.
Perete said if the application for asylum is granted, they would inform the relevant government agencies and alert law enforcement agencies in the Philippines that these persons cannot be deported.
When asked if the Philippine government receives any information in exchange for not turning them over to their government, Usec Perete replied in negative, saying it is granted for “humanitarian reasons.”
“It’s really protection granted to individuals who are the subject of repression in their own countries, that they would not be put in harm’s way. Of course it is an international obligation for instance Jose Maria Sison who also applied for asylum in The Netherlands,” he said.