Abalos allowed to fly to buy fish
MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Benjamin Abalos may fly to Taiwan to buy bangus (milkfish) fry and feeds, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan said. But he would need to convince another court to allow him to leave the country.
In a resolution dated November 12, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division granted Abalos permission to travel to Taiwan, provided he meets certain terms and conditions, including the payment of a P90,000 travel bond. With Abalos facing a graft case, the Sandiganbayan resolution was signed by Fourth Division Chair Gregory Ong, Associate Justice Jose Hernandez, and Associate Justice Maria Cristina Cornejo.
Despite this resolution, however, the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC), before which he has an electoral sabotage case, has barred Abalos from flying to Taiwan. Abalos has appealed the order of the Pasay court, which, on Monday, November 19, heard Abalos' motion for reconsideration.
In his motion for reconsideration filed November 14, Abalos cited the Sandiganbayan's resolution allowing him to travel abroad from November 27 to 30.
"The honorable court should take judicial notice of the fact that in a resolution dated November 12, 2012, the Fourth Division of the honorable Sandiganbayan, before which two cases against Abalos are being heard, allowed him to travel for the exact same reasons herein stated," said Abalos' lawyers, Roberto Bermejo and Jerusha Villanueva.
"Abalos is willing to post an additional bond and abide by other conditions that this honorable court would see fit to impose upon him in connection with his brief travel to Taiwan," the former Comelec chairman's lawyers said.
Abalos, who is described as having long "been engaged in aquaculture," is now out on bail for electoral sabotage and graft charges.
Justifying his request before the Pasay court, Abalos cited 3 main points to be allowed to fly to Kaohsiung, Taiwan "to visit several aquaculture suppliers and hatcheries." These reasons include the following:
- "There is no other person who could undertake the business transaction other than him;"
- "Taiwan suppliers can better address the needs of Abalos' aquaculture business for milkfish fry and feeds;" and
- "Abalos is not a flight risk"
But lawyers from the Comelec, who oppose Abalos' request to travel, said the court should not grant his request on the following grounds:
- "The reason of the accused's travel to Taiwan is specious since there is no shortage of supply of bangus fry in the Philippines;"
- "There is no absolute necessity for accused Abalos to personally travel to Taiwan;"
- "There is high probability of flight, thereby putting accused Abalos beyond the reach of the honorable court;" and
- "The right of accused Abalos to travel is not absolute, and prohibition is in accordance with Section 6, Article II of the 1987 Constitution"
Like Abalos, his co-accused in these cases, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, may also need to go abroad, as far as her doctors are concerned. Her doctors say Mrs Arroyo, who faces electoral sabotage, graft, and plunder charges, faces a "life-threatening" illness.
She attempted to go abroad in November last year, with the Supreme Court allowing her to leave. But the Department of Justice prevented this, sparking tension between the executive and the judiciary – Rappler.com