MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr – one of the lawmakers implicated in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam – left the country with his and his family Saturday, March 29, to spend Holy Week in Israel.
Their depature was preceded by text blasts from unknown numbers, warning that the senator was fleeing, anticipating “the release of his arrest warrant for his role in the PDAF scam.” The sender provided the wrong flight number – Philippine Airlines flight PR312 at 9:25 pm – misleading some journalists who were staking out at the airport.
Revilla’s media relations officer Amy Manzo denied the rumor. Manzo told reporters the senator is going to the Holy Land, a popular pilgrimage site, “to seek divine intercession on his present predicament.”
Revilla is among the respondents in plunder and other corruption complaints before the Ombudsman. They are accused of getting huge kickbacks from alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles by endorsing her fake NGOs so implementing agencies would release the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund to them.
At the height of the pork barrel scam, the Department of Justice asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the passports of 37 individuals, including Revilla. He blasted the move, saying that the DFA had no jurisdiction to cancel his passport since he has not been convicted of any crime.
Revilla, and his wife, Cavite Rep Lani Mercado-Revilla had sought permission to travel from Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, respectively, according Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr forwarded Mison’s text message to reporters Saturday night: “Sir, Sen. Revilla and wife Cong. Lani were cleared for departure a few mins ago, EK335 for Dubai. Both legislators had travel authority from Senate President and House Speaker. FYI, sir.”
In an interview with Interaksyon, Manzo of Revilla’s office said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gave the senator verbal permission to travel a month before the scheduled trip.
Revilla will be back by April 13, his wife’s birthday, Interaksyon reported. – Rappler.com