DFA asked to cancel passports of 3 senators, 34 others
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – "In the interest of national security," the justice department formally requested the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday, October 24, to cancel the passports of 37 persons who are respondents in plunder and other corruption complaints before the Ombudsman.
They include 3 senators – Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile – who are facing plunder complaints over the alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) over the years.
The DFA on Thursday evening confirmed it has received the DOJ's request.
"In accordance with Section 4 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 (RA 8239), the department will ask the concerned persons to submit written comments on the request of the DOJ. On the basis of the written comments submitted, the department will make a decision on the request of the DOJ," the DFA said in a statement.
The DOJ's list does not include the 38th person facing plunder complaints – Janet Lim Napoles. She is detained for the non-bailable charge of serious illegal detention for holding employee Benhur Luy, who has since turned state witness in the pork barrel scam probe.
Napoles' passport was earlier cancelled after she went into hiding when the serious illegal detention case was filed against her.
In her letter to DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, De Lima said: "Plunder being a non-bailable offense, the possibility that several of the subject persons will be in detention throughout the trial of their case is high, and therefore there is strong probability that they will attempt to leave the country in order to evade arrest, detention, and prosecution altogether."
On Wednesday, October 23, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima specified only 4 respondents as subject of the request, although she indicated there could be more.
She named those whom Bureau of Immigration records show have left the country:
- Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales Reyes (former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile), who left on Aug 31, 2013
- Ruby Chan Tuason (liaison for Senator Jinggoy Estrada), Aug 29, 2013
- Rodolfo Galido Plaza (former Agusan del Sur congressman), Sept 11, 2013
- Antonio Adino Ortiz Jr (former Technology Resource Center chief), Sept 29, 2013
Like these 4, the other respondents might "begin to make the hard choice...of simply fleeing the country," De Lima said in her letter to Del Rosario.
Here is the complete list of PDAF scam players whose passports are being requested for cancellation:
- Jinggoy Estrada
- Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr
- Juan Ponce Enrile
- Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur)
- Samuel Dangwa (Bengue)
- Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro City)
Staff or representatives of lawmakers
- Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes (Enrile’s chief of staff)
- Richard Cambe (Revilla’s chief political officer)
- Ruby Tuason (liaison for Enrile and Estrada)
- Pauline Labayen (staff of Estrada)
- Jose Sumalpong (staff of Lanete)
- Janet dela Cruz (staff of Lanete)
- Erwin Dangwa (staff of Dangwa)
- Carlos Lozada (staff of Dangwa)
5 former heads of agencies
- Alan Javellana (former president of the National Agribusiness Corp or Nabcor)
- Gondelina Amata (president of the National Livelihood Development Corp or NLDC)
- Antonio Ortiz (former director general of the Training and Research Center or TRC)
- Dennis Cunanan (director general of TRC)
- Salvador Salacup (former president of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. or ZREC who is now assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture)
Other officials and employees of government agencies
- Victor Cacal (Nabcor)
- Romulo Revelo (Nabcor)
- Ma. Ninez Guanizo (Nabcor)
- Julie Johnson (Nabcor)
- Rodhora Mendoza (Nabcor)
- Alexis Sevidal (NLDC)
- Sofia Cruz (NLDC)
- Chila Jalandoni (NLDC)
- Francisco Figura (TRC)
- Marivic Jover (TRC)
Presidents of Napoles NGOs
- Jocelyn Piorato
- Nemesio Pablo
- Mylene Encarnacion
- John Raymund de Asis
- Evelyn de Leon
- Ronald John Lim
Under the Philippine Passport Act, a passport can be cancelled if its holder:
- is a fugitive from justice
- is convicted of a crime
- fraudulently acquired or tampered with the document.
De Lima acknowledged earlier that the DOJ cannot cite the “fugitive from justice” ground since the Ombudsman have yet to recommend the filing of cases against the respondents before the Sandiganbayan.
On Thursday, she cited "national interest" in the DOJ's formal request to DFA.
"We submit that there is sufficient basis in fact and law to cancel the passports of the subject persons in the interest of national security."
De Lima cited 3 documents that allow the government to limit a person's right to travel or to restrict the use of the individual's passport "in the interest of national security." These are the Constitution, the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 (Section 4), and 2011-2016 National Security Policy of the Philippines that acknowledges the "direct relation between national security and corruption."
In a statement, Senator Revilla said: "Unless we are now under martial law, it is ridiculous for this government to resort to cancellation of passports of those they wrongfully charge as part of the pork barrel scam."
He pointed out that the Ombudsman has yet to determine if there's probable cause to file charges against him and other respondents with the Sandiganbayan, so there is no reason for them to be classified as "national security risk."
The senator insisted that "there is no law that defines" what a national security risk is, and it is "not a ground to cancel passports." – Rappler.com