Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to cancel the passports of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and several others implicated in the pork barrel scam.
De Lima made the request through a letter.
Aside from the three senators and those who have fled the Philippines, the Justice chief also sought the cancellation of the passports of Masbate Gov. and former representative Rizalina Seachon-Lanete; former APEC party-list representative Edgar Valdez; former Benguet representative Samuel Dangwa; former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula; Richard Cambe, a member of Revilla’s staff; Pauline Labayen, Estrada’s staff; Jose “Joy” Sumalpong, former chief of staff of Lanete; Jeanette dela Cruz, Lanete’s district staff; Erwin Dangwa, Dangwa’s chief of staff; Carlos Lozada, also a staff of Dangwa; Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp.; Gondelina Amata, president of the National Livelihood Development Corp.; Dennis Cunanan, current director general of the TRC and Ortiz’s former deputy; Salvador Salacup, Agriculture assistant secretary and former president of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.; Jocelyn Piorato, president of Agrikultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc.; Nemesio Pablo, president of Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.; Mylene Encarnacion, president of the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc.; John Raymund de Asis, president of the Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc.; Evelyn de Leon, president of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc.; Ronald John Lim, president of the Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.; Victor Cabal, Julie Johnson, and Rodhora Mendoza, all of Nabcor; Alexis Sevidal, Sofia Cruz and Chila Jalandoni of NLDC; and Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover of TRC.
Only Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the pork barrel scam, is behind bars but for a separate complaint of serious illegal detention.
Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff, and Ruby Chan Tuason, the supposed “arms” of Estrada and Enrile, have left the country.
In justifying her request, De Lima cited Section 6, Article III of the Constitution and the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 allowing limitations on the right to travel, “in the interest of national security.”
De Lima said these “politicians and their cohorts who pluck the food away from a hungry child’s mouth are no different from the terrorists who sow physical insecurity among the populace, when they cause economic insecurity among the people by stealing livelihood resources and money intended for calamity relief.”
“On another angle, the money stolen by the subject persons could have also been easily used for improving the country’s external and internal defense infrastructure through the modernization of the armed forces and the national police. The estimated billions of pesos stolen can easily finance the Navy’s requirements for modern frigates and other warships, the Air Force’s need for sophisticated fighter jets, and the Army’s and Police’s requests for upgraded weaponry, vehicles, communications systems, and protective gear. Instead of going to these security modernization projects, the money went to corruption to feed the luxurious lifestyle of the few social predators among us who masquerade as public servants.”
The DFA said it will assess the request once it formally receives a copy of de Lima’s letter.
Under the Philippines Passport Act, a passport can be cancelled if its holder is a fugitive from justice, is convicted of a crime and is proven to have tampered with the document or fraudulently acquired the passport.
The camp of Revilla branded the request “ridiculous”.
“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,” said Joel Bodegon, Revilla’s counsel.
“They (Department of Justice) have already filed their report to the Ombudsman, and by
that, they have no authority any longer to declare those they charge as “national security risk,” Bodegon added.
Estrada for his part said that they are not considered as security threat, and that no charges have been filed against them before the Sandiganbayan.
With a report from Bernice Camille Bauzon