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Revilla: DFA can't cancel my passport, can't declare me guilty

MANILA, Philippines – Lawyers of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr on Monday, November 4, told the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) it has no right to cancel his passport because it is not the body that determines guilt in an alleged crime.

In a comment submitted to the DFA, Revilla's lawyers also said the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to cancel his passport is a “product of its impaired imagination.”

“For sure, should your honorable office cancel our client’s passport on the basis of his being a 'national security risk' as insisted on by the DOJ, such action is tantamount to your honorable office concluding, without any judicial proceedings and in grave violation of the presumption of innocence, that our client is guilty of graft and corruption or the crime of plunder,” said lawyers Joel Bodegon, Noelle Gavino, and Daphne Yu in their 8-page comment. 

The DOJ had requested the DFA to cancel the passport of Revilla and 36 others, including 3 senators, who face plunder and other corruption complaints. The agency said it made the request “in the interest of national security.” (READ: DOJ wants more passports cancelled.)

In their comment, Revilla's lawyers added no court has convicted Revilla. They said “even the Ombudsman has not found, at the moment, probable cause to indict our client” for plunder before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

“In this sense, the DOJ is engaged in the nefarious practice of forum shopping, hoping against hope that what it failed to instantly secure from the OMB, it would get from your Honorable Office,” Bodegon, Gavino, and Yu said.

The lawyers said that in the first place, no Philippine law considers graft and corruption as threats to national security.

They noted that the Revised Penal Code “lists only 10 crimes under Crimes against National Security and the Law of Nations.” These include the following: 

'Defies reason'

“It simply defies reason and logic for the DOJ to consider our client a threat to national security if and when he leaves the country, yet consider him as not a threat if he remains within the Philippines. In other words, the DOJ has not reasonably shown a genuine necessity for the government to curtail our client’s constitutional right to travel,” the lawyers said.

“At best,” they added, “the threat that the DOJ sees is nothing but the product of its impaired imagination.”

In an opinion piece on Monday, constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas also weighed in on the passport cancellation issue.

Bernas said De Lima “seems stymied by the Philippine Passport Law.” He said the law, after all, cites the following grounds for cancelling passports: 

The DFA earlier said this is likely the first bid to cancel passports on the basis of national security. (READ: DFA: Cancellation of respondents' passports inescapable.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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