Detained 78 foreigners file habeas corpus petition

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Saturday, April 21, 2012


DAVAO CITY -- Lawyers of the 78 foreigners nabbed here for international money fraud filed Friday a petition for habeas corpus before the Regional Trial Court, just hours after the passports of 72 of them were cancelled.

The suspects - 72 Taiwanese and six Chinese - were arrested in separate raids on their hideouts in this city Wednesday. They were in the Philippines only "to enjoy the island," one of their lawyers said.

But Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang said the suspects "are without proper travel documents." The 78 are all carrying a tourist visa.

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She said the Taipei Economic Culture Office (Teco) in the Philippines sent a letter addressed to BI Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. that they have already cancelled the passports of the arrested Taiwanese nationals.

The Teco represents the Taiwanese government since Taiwan has no embassy in the Philippines.

Mangrobang said, however, that they cannot yet charge the 72 Taiwanese as undocumented aliens even as the Davao City Police Office-Investigation and Detection Management Branch (DCPO-IDMB) filed a criminal case against the suspects.

She said once a foreigner is charged as an undocumented alien, one is subject for deportation. However, she said an alien cannot be deported if the latter is charged with a criminal case.

With this, she said the BI should make the proper action for detaining and deporting them to Taiwan.

As to the six Chinese nationals, the BI is still waiting for the communication from the Chinese government.

Lawyer Israelito Torreon, counsel for the apprehended foreigners, said the foreigners are just tourists who have the right to be in the Philippines.

"We should not thrust to conclusions, for all you know, a great number of these people are just here to enjoy the island, enjoy Davao City. Two are even pregnant. Some were here to visit their boyfriends, most of them are very young," he said.

He added his clients are tourist visa holders and they were not here to work.

"I don't know what is that theory. I have to see the formal charge first before I will comment on that because it is still hearsay, it is not yet a formal complaint especially that it is for the BI is concerned," Torreon said.

The foreigners were arrested in a series of raids on three houses allegedly turned into illegal Taiwanese-operated call centers in international money fraud activities.

The arrested aliens were subjected to individual and house search in Santan corner Ilang-ilang streets, Villa Josefina, Barangay 7-A, Matina Crossing; PLDT Village on Velsaco Highway in front of the Japanese Tunnel; and Ladislawa Village in Buhangin.

Torreon said everyone is entitled to defense, thus it is not good to rush into conclusions especially that the prosecution has shown the alleged violations of his clients.

"That does not mean that they are guilty of the crime. Due process requires that we should also hear the side of the individuals. They are really very young. We must first look into the evidences and ensure that they have violated any rules," he said.

In a 23-page petition filed at 3:50 p.m. Friday, Torreon, along with three other counsels of the foreigners -- lawyers Allan Cartagena Lozare, Ofelia Puerto-Cabahug and Jalika Mae Fernandez Rosello -- asked the court to direct Lai Ying Men, deputy chief of Investigation Brigade of Criminal Investigation Bureau of Taiwan Police Agency; members of Interpol and the Taiwan Police Force; and the DCPO represented by Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa to "produce the body of all 78 petitioners before the court."

The petitioners also asked that the court will order the respondents to "provide the proper documents explaining their authority to arrest and detain the petitioners and the legal reasons for their arrest and detention."

The foreigners also asked the court to "order for the release of the petitioners after hearing on the petition."

Further, the foreigners wanted to prohibit Ying-Men and other officers of the Taiwan police from exercising authority and jurisdiction over the petitioners without the authorization from the Philippine government.

In a text message, Torreon said the petition will be heard Monday. He said they are still collecting data and waiting for the police to file the case.

The lawyer added that they are ensuring that the rights of the foreigners are protected, adding they are entitled to due process. Hence, it is not good to make conclusion right away "without hearing their side."

Torreon said they had a hard time communicating with the 78 foreigners since only two males and a female are able to speak English.

In a separate interview, Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa said they are set to file the charges today, Saturday, against the 78 foreigners before the City Prosecutor’s Office.

The DCPO-IDMB escorted by three Taiwanese police submitted their affidavit complaint before Prosecutor Serafica Weis Friday.

They filed charges for violation of Republic Act (RA) 8484, otherwise known as Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998, in relation to RA 8792 (Electronic Commerce Act) against the 72 Taiwanese and six Chinese nationals.

Dela Rosa said they are still evaluating whether they will also file illegal possession of firearms and violation of RA 9165, otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, after they recovered caliber .45 and suspected shabu (methamphetamine), marijuana and ecstasy in one of the hideouts at Ladislawa Village in Buhangin. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 21, 2012.

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