DOJ asks DFA: Cancel passports of Enrile, Jinggoy, Bong
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formally sought the cancellation of the passports of three senators and 34 other individuals charged before the Office of the Ombudsman for the pork barrel scam.
In a 10-page letter-request addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima requested for the cancellation of the passports of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada; members of their staff; incumbent Masbate Gov. Rizalina Lanete, former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez, former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula and their other co-respondents.
The DOJ said there was an "urgent and imperative need" for the cancellation of their passports in order to prevent them from attempting to flee the country.
"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.
The DOJ 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."
The DOJ 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."
In citing the Constitution, the justice department stressed that the right to travel may be limited "in the interest of national security, public safety or public health."
As far as the Philippine Passport Act is concerned, the DOJ invoked Sec 4 thereof which states that "[i]n the interest of national security... the Secretary [of Foreign Affairs] or any of the authorized consular officers may, after due hearing and in their proper discretion, refuse to issue a passport, or restrict its use or withdraw or cancel a passport...."
The DOJ 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.
Alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles was not included in the request because her passport had been cancelled earlier when she became a fugitive from justice, evading the service of her arrest warrant on the serious illegal detention case filed by "pork" scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
On Wednesday, de Lima said her office had found basis to request the cancellation of the passports of those charged in connection with the pork barrel and Malampaya Fund "scams" who have left the country.
She said her office would request the cancellation of the passports of Atty. Gigi Reyes, former chief of staff of Enrile, who, along with Enrile, was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for the "pork barrel scam," and Ruby Tuason, former Social Secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, also a respondent in the complaint.
Reyes and Tuason left the country in August and have not returned since.
"[Our basis] is not the 'fugitive from justice' ground because none of them is yet a fugitive because wala pa yung kaso sa korte, so we are looking at other grounds," De Lima said.
DFA: Senators, others should explain
The DFA, in a press statement Thursday night, confirmed receipt of the DOJ's request.
It said it will ask the 37 on the DOJ list to explain their side.
"In accordance with Section 4 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 (R.A. 8239), the Department will ask the concerned persons to submit written comments on the request of the DOJ," the DFA said.
"On the basis of the written comments submitted, the department will make a decision on the request of the DOJ," it added.