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Arrest of 3 Philippine opposition senators seen imminent
Publication Date : 18-06-2014
The arrest of three Philippine opposition senators- Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla - seemed imminent after the Sandiganbayan, an antigraft court, barred them from leaving the country, the National Bureau of Investigation said.
“Big possibility” was how NBI Director Virgilio Mendez replied to the Inquirer’s question if the issuance of warrants for the arrest of the three senators and 51 others charged with plunder and/or graft was imminent following the issuance of hold-departure orders (HDOs) against them by the antigraft court.
Like Mendez, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson said “the issuance of the arrest warrants is imminent.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday night said the arrest warrants would be issued only after the three Sandiganbayan divisions handling the cases examined the evidence.
Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison on Tuesday ordered the enforcement of the HDOs against the three senators and their coaccused.
In a statement, Mison said he had ordered immigration personnel at the country’s international airports and seaports to immediately “put under their care” those named in the HDOs should they attempt to leave the country.
Enrile, Estrada and Revilla have been prevented from leaving the country while their plunder and graft cases in connection with the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam are pending in the Sandiganbayan.
On Monday, the first working day after the cases were raffled off in the Sandiganbayan, Fifth Division issued an HDO against Estrada and his 13 coaccused in his plunder and graft cases.
Under the law, the government is empowered to prevent the departure of a person while his or her case is being tried by a court.
The HDOs against Enrile and Revilla and their coaccused, including Janet Lim-Napoles whose network of dubious nongovernment organisations (NGOs) allegedly diverted multimillion-peso kickbacks from lawmakers’ pork barrel funds, were issued within hours of each other on Tuesday by two Sandiganbayan divisions handling their respective cases.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division ordered the Bureau of Immigration to bar Enrile and his 46 coaccused in plunder and graft cases from leaving the country without the court’s approval.
A similar order was issued a few hours earlier by the antigraft court’s First Division against Revilla and 35 others coaccused in his plunder and graft cases.
This means that all those charged with the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—including the three senators, alleged mastermind Napoles, budget officials, executives of state corporations and senatorial staff members—are prevented from leaving the country for the duration of the trial.