In the Grace Grande Case, Extradition is Tantamount to Trafficking

On Friday, Oct. 19, 40-year-old Grace Grande surrendered to the Los Angeles Attorney General’s office; she faces extradition hearings, based on a request from the Philippine government to the U.S. State Department.  The request alleges that Grande “stole” jewelry worth around $43,000 from a Nancy Manlangit, an employee of Philippine Congressman Patrick Antonio, with whom Ms. Grande had a 10-year relationship and by whom she has two sons. During that decade, Grande and her sons lived on the “down-low,” because the congressman was married. In 2007, the year the alleged theft took place, Grande had decided to end the relationship and left for the U.S.

What circumstance made Grande accept the life of a mistress–a querida or kabit in Philippine parlance–is no longer germane. A querida (which, ironically, is Spanish for beloved) has even less rights than a concubine, who is at least integrated into the patriarchal household.  The querida lives apart, often in isolation and surrounded by secrecy, with the man as the center of her life. He visits when he pleases; she is an accessory of his wealth, power and/or masculinity. He has rights over and to the querida; she has zero rights over him.  She is “kept,” private property. The system, learned from Spanish colonialism, is the underbelly of an absolute no-divorce government policy in the Philippines which, by and large, impacts women more harshly than men.

Queridas rarely fare well in the Philippines. In the end, they are abandoned, replaced by younger queridas, and become other men’s queridas. If they have daughters, it is likely they will become queridas as well. Dispensing with a querida is the man’s prerogative. Tales abound of queridas maimed, beaten up and/or killed when they choose to forgo the relationship. A politician during the administration of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, chided for severely beating up a mistress who had left him, gave the classic response: “I was kind at that; I didn’t kill her.” For those who are indeed killed, there’s little justice, as the social reaction is that she deserves whatever punishment is dealt her for “choosing” to be a querida. In addition, querida owners are powerful men who can corrupt, intimidate and manipulate government institutions and officials. Medical records disappear, instant alibis created, facts obfuscated.

Since 2007, when Grace Grande decided to end her status as a querida and raise her children within an ethical paradigm, she has suffered: six months imprisonment by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a five-year custody battle over her children and long-running court hearings on her political asylum petition as well as threats of legal and illegal persecution, bodily harm and loss of her children. For five years she and her children have been stalked and harassed.

Each incident seemed to have a separate cause, but the common thread binding them is the objective of compelling Grande to return to the Philippines and to the congressman’s power.  The theft charge, for instance, which was not investigated and was accepted by the Philippine court on the basis of affidavits, is grievous, as those accused of thefts of over $600 are not allowed bail in the Phillipines. If Grande is extradited, she will go directly to a Philippine prison, where anything can happen. Once she is in jail, her sons would likely be given over to their father. “If that happens, I can do nothing but return to him, “ said Grande, “as I will go where my children go.” In effect, she will be forced to return to sex slavery. (UPDATE: Grace Grande was allowed bail;  the judge chose three from the many community people offering to stand surety for her bail of $70,000–more than what she’s alleged to have stolen. Forums on her case are beginning to sprout in cities outside Los Angeles. Her supporters are putting together a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

There seems to be no way to stop this perversion of the U.S. legal process, which in this case virtually facilitates sex trafficking. As one lawyer commented, “I do not understand the aggressiveness with which this case against Grace Grande is being pursued.” Powerful institutions–from the Philippine juridical system to its foreign affairs department, from the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol to the U.S. embassy in Manila–seem to fall in line at the congressman’s command.  That may be par for the course in the Philippines, where justice misfires constantly, but as the U.S. issues an annual report that judges other countries on their efforts against trafficking, it is bitterly ironic.

Photo of Phillipine flag via Flickr user Hector Garcia licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. In this day and age, it is unbelievable that a woman is in this horrible situation. Men do not own women. We American women cannot allow sex trafficking and must do everything possible to stop it.

    • Ninotchka Rosca says:

      It’s actually hair-raising to watch Grace Grande and her children so hounded. And on US soil, too! Thank you for your outrage.

  2. Anita C.Ilan says:

    Extradite from the Philippines to USA DEAD BEAT DAD CONGRESSMAN if he is in violation of not paying US Court- ordered Child Support to his and Grace’s 2 sons.

  3. Karra Bikson says:

    As a clinical social worker, and a professor of social work, I have worked with women and children survivors of abuse and domestic violence and advocated for women’s rights and the safety, basic needs, dignity and autonomy of all people (esp. individuals and groups who request help). Ms. Grande is the mother of 2 children who are being stalked by a powerful politician from the Philippines because she tried to leave an abusive situation. Prior to her courageous action of trying to protect herself and her children by escaping, this man had expressed no interest in his in his 2 sons. Since Grace and her family escaped he has used both the Philippine and now US legal system to stalk Grace and force her and her children to return to him. Usually in my work I assist women into shelter, help them get restraining orders and legal protections against the person abusing and stalking them. Usually the hardest part is getting the woman and her children to leave the abusive situation. In this case the hardest part is fighting legal charges that are far beyond the scope of social work. Please help this case in any way you can, not just for Grace, but for all women who have the courage to leave an abusive situation. If Grace cannot be allowed to leave, I fear women will give up and they and their families will experience chronic abuse that as intergenerational sequelae. This is the epitome of “‘the personal is political” and we must fight with and for Grace and her family. Thank you, Dr. Karra Bikson

  4. I think majority of the people are only seeing or are being exposed to one side of the story. One must also take into consideration why Grace Grande allowed herself to be involved with a married man. What kind of values does she have? Did she not consider the suffering that the legal wife and legitimate children went through for years? Or how come she adamantly refused to leave the politician despite desperate pleas of the wife and even members of her own family? Her reason: they were in a loving relationship. She left for the US not to escape abuse since there was none. She left because she wanted the politician to leave his family and be with her and their sons instead. She loved the life she had in the Philippines – constant travels, luxuries, imported clothes, jewelry, furnitures….she FLAUNTED being a mistress and didn’t keep it a secret. It was the legal wife that had to hide and suffer due to heartache and embarrassment because her husband’s mistress was so proud to parade all over town after her salon and spa rituals.

    Readers, dwell on that. She wants sympathy now….God is punishing her for what she has done. She ruined a family, lived a luxurious life full of lies and deceit with no remorse, and she certainly didn’t care about the consequences of her actions. What kind of example has she shown her own children?

    • Carlo Lacanila says:

      Ms. Doe, can you clarify where the politician stands in all your moral suasion? Is he now the tempted, innocent, victim? And, since you invoked a God who seems hellbent on punishment, what was the congressman’s?

      • Mr. Lacanila, obviously both the politician and Grace Grande have had to face consequences for their actions. They were both consenting adults when they decided to commit a mortal sin and even went as far as bringing illegitimate children into the picture. The illegitimate children have also become victims in this. It is just too funny to see how Grace Grande is trying to play the tempted, innocent victim in this whole situation when she knew what she was doing from the very beginning. Let us just not forget the people that Grace Grande have also wronged and hurt in the process….she can’t wash her hands clean of what she has done. She is knee deep in all the crap she put herself into.

Speak Your Mind

*