- Posted October 24, 2013 by
3 Philippine senators planning to flee?
THE justice department in Manila on Thursday said there was an urgent and imperative need for the cancellation of passports of three Philippine senators and 34 other individuals to prevent them from attempting to flee the country.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued the statement after she formally requested the Foreign Affairs department to cancel the passports of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada.
"The possibility that several of the subject persons will be in detention throughout the trial is high thus creating a strong probability that they will attempt to leave the country in order to evade arrest, detention and prosecution altogether, " de Lima said.
Enrile, Revilla, Estrada and 34 other individuals are facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for the P10-billion “pork barrel” scam allegedly orchestrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Napoles was not included in the request because her passport had been cancelled earlier when she went into hiding, evading the service of her arrest warrant on the serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
In a 10-page letter-request addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Del Rosario, De Lima invoked Section 6, Article III of the Constitution "which expressly permits the limitation of the right to travel ' in the interest of national security, public safety or public health as may be provided by law."
She also cited Republic Act 8239 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 which provides that passports may be cancelled in the "interest of national security."
The letter-request, however, stressed that Enrile et al should be accorded notice and hearing on the request for the cancellation of their passports because they do not fall under the three grounds cited in the Passport Act for passport cancellation: when one is a fugitive from justice, when one has been convicted of a criminal offense, and when one's passport was acquired fraudulently or tampered with.
Meanwhile, Estrada and Revilla called the request for the cancellation of their passports as premature and baseless because the plunder charge against him has yet to be filed in court.
In a statement, Revilla's lawyer Joel Bodegon argued the justice department can only request for the cancellation of a passport if the individual is out of the country.
“The move is ridiculous and tantamount to martial rule," Bodegon said.