Jinggoy, Bong, JPE passport row could reach SC
MANILA - A justice department request to cancel the passports of three senators and 34 others linked to the pork barrel scam could reach the Supreme Court, the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law said Friday.
Atty. Danny Concepcion, dean of the UP College of Law, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's request to cancel the passports of Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., and Juan Ponce Enrile as well as 34 others is rooted in 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."
De Lima also invoked Republic Act 8239 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 which provides that passports may be cancelled in the "interest of national security."
Concepcion noted that under the law, the Department of Foreign Affairs can cancel a passport of an individual even if no case has been filed against the person.
"However, under the law, those applying for the cancellation must explain why the passports should be cancelled because it threatens national security, public safety and public order. De Lima has to show basis for the cancellation of the passports, that their leaving the country will be a threat to national security," he said.
The law dean likened the issue to the cancellation of then Senator Ninoy Aquino Jr's passport to return to the Philippines after receiving treatment in the United States. At the time, the Marcos administration said Aquino could not return because of threats to Aquino's life.
During the administration of President Cory Aquino, Malacañang also cancelled the passports of Marcos and former general Fabian Ver because the Marcoses still had loyalists that could destabilize the government.
Concepcion said the latest passport row is different because the persons involved are being disallowed from leaving the country.
He said that based on de Lima's statements, the accused cannot leave because of the "gravity of the case, which is plunder." The accused are facing plunder, graft, bribery and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.
He also noted that de Lima is linking corruption to national security. "She said it would undermine our judicial system and it will be a threat to our security," he said.
Concepcion said the DOJ's position is that the Foreign Affairs Secretary has the power to define what constitutes threats to national security, public safety or public health.
"Siyempre bubuwelta naman ang kabila - kung batas yan, unconstitutional yan. Parang ipinamigay na ng Kongreso ang karapatan na gumawa ng kahulugan sa 3 salita na iyon. Binibigay na lang sa DFA. It's a delegation of authority running riot," he said.
The UP law dean said that unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, the DFA can still act on the cancellation of passports under the Philippine Passport Act.
"Kongreso can say that but until SC says that the authority given to DFA is unconstitutional because ti is undue delegation of power, that power stays and as long as that stays it can be used," he said.
"What will happen here is - there will be a hearing in the DFA and if they say yes we will cancel because leaving the Philippines will be a threat, then it will go to the Supreme Court. What they will raise is - the power delegated to the DFA is unconstitutional because it is undue delegation of power," he added.