Chiz backs senators: What security threat?
MANILA - Sen. Francis Escudero on Friday said he does not agree with the Department of Justice's move to seek the cancellation of the passports of 3 senators linked to the pork barrel scam.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Escudero said the case involving Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile is still in the preliminary investigation stage at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The DOJ earlier filed plunder, graft, bribery and malversation raps against 38 individuals for their alleged links to the scam.
Escudero said he does not fault the DOJ for being aggressive in preventing the possible flight of the accused in the pork barrel scam. He said the DOJ did the same thing when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attempted to leave the country while plunder charges were being prepared against her.
The senator, however, said cancellation of passports can be done only if a person's right to travel can affect national security, public health and public safety.
"I don't see how this can affect public health, public safety and national security. However, it's different when the case finally reaches the Sandiganbayan and a warrant of arrest is issued," he said.
Escudero said he cannot see how allowing the three senators to leave the country would be a security threat.
The DOJ earlier said there was an "urgent and imperative need" for the cancellation of the passports of the 37 accused in the pork barrel scam.
"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," Justice Secretary Leila 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."