Estrada to pursue US trip amid possible passport cancellation-A A +A
Sunday, October 27, 2013
AMID the request to cancel passports of three senators -- Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla -- and 34 other respondents in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam case filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Estrada said he will pursue his scheduled overseas trip to the United States in the next few weeks with wife Precy Ejercito Estrada.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Estrada who is now in Maribojoc town in Bohol, said he will need to seek a second opinion for his wife's medical condition after their oncologist confirmed that his wife has a lump on her breast.
"This schedule has long been arranged even before the Department of Justice (DOJ) requested for the cancellation of our passport. I have to make sure that my wife will get the best treatment for her condition right now. We need to ask for a second opinion," Estrada said.
Estrada also said the DOJ's request to cancel his passport along with others charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman can only mean that politics is the name of the game.
"We are not convicted yet and not even the Ombudsman has given her recommendation. I don't see the point of issuing this cancellation of passport. I will not hide. Never," Estrada stressed.
The senator said that even during the time of the Arroyo administration, when he and former President Estrada has been charged of plunder, they opted to stay in the country and faced the charges filed against them.
"Eventually the case filed against me was dismissed. I was born here, I was raised here and I will die here. If I leave the country, I will assure my country that I will be coming back and will face all the charges," Estrada said.
The senator also said he will not secure anymore the permission from Senate President Franklin Drilon as he explained further his planned travel is not official business but family matter.
Estrada also confirmed that he will not be able to attend the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing set on November 7 when Janet Lim Napoles and her accusers are expected to face each other.
"I have said time and again that I am inhibiting myself. Why will I go there? I am so tired of this issue. I hope Napoles will speak up and tell the truth. Either they clear us or convict us. It is up to them. We will just wait," Estrada said.
Justice Secretary De Lima on Thursday asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to cancel the passports of the those charged in connection with the pork barrel scam, among which are Enrile, Revilla and Estrada, saying there was sufficient basis in law and in fact to do so.
She argued that the government viewed graft and corruption as a national security threat and that under the passport law, the foreign secretary could refuse to issue, limit the use of or cancel a passport “in the interest of national security.”
Meanwhile, the DFA said, its decision if it will cancel their passports will depend upon the written comments of the persons implicated on the matter.
Earlier, Revilla said they cannot expect a fair treatment from the present government as he denounced de Lima's move saying it is a clear violation of his human rights and that of his co respondents.
"This early we are being treated as worse than convicts when no charges have been filed against us. How can we expect due process when this early they want to punish us. Is this Martial Law?" Revilla was quoted as saying.
De Lima, according to Revilla, was exposing her bias after labeling them as "threat to national security."
As a DOJ secretary, Revilla said, de Lima should respect the law and "stop riding on this issue for publicity at their expense."
Repeated calls to Enrile, the third senator in the passport cancellation request list, went unanswered on Friday.
But Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said de Lima is not committing any grave abuse.
Santiago, a constitutional and international law expert, said the Philippines was obliged to cancel the passports of the three senators facing a plunder complaint under the 2005 UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
The local law, in this case the passport law, should not pose a problem to the cancellation of the passports under the UN conventions, Santiago said.
Santiago further said that while the UNCAC and Vienna Convention appear to be in conflict with the passport law, they are part of the law of the land under the Constitution.
Santiago said the UNCAC which came into effect in 2005, also supersedes the 1996 passport law and "in the interest of national security, the state is not immobilized by its own domestic law to allow persons of interest to morph into fugitives from justice before taking what could be a futile action,” she said.
The lady senator argued that everything is legal and the early cancellation of a passport by the government would be an “act of preemptive self-defense.” (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)