MANILA - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is trying to determine whether any one of the several accused in the plunder and graft cases in connection with the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam had left the country ahead of the Sandiganbayan's issuance of hold departure orders (HDO) against them.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, who has administrative supervision over the bureau, told reporters on Wednesday that, so far, there is no report yet of any of the accused leaving the country.
"Chini-check na but, so far, wala pang report... but I'm sure BI is doing it and BI will immediately report to me 'pag meron nang wala," De Lima said.
The anti-graft court issued HDOs against accused Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada, alleged scam architect Janet Lim Napoles, and several others.
Upon receipt of the orders, Immigration Commissioner Sigfried Mison directed all immigration officers in the country's international and seaports to be on alert, and execute the HDOs should any of the accused attempt to flee the country.
"If they (accused) show themselves sa airport, then they (immigration officers) have to restrain them from leaving the country," De Lima said.
Three divisions of the Sandiganbayan, which are handling the cases, have yet to issue arrest warrants for the accused.
De Lima said absent any arrest warrant, the HDOs would serve the purpose of ensuring that the accused shall be brought to justice.
"The HDOs, in the meantime, should suffice. It is sufficient to prevent anyone from leaving because, precisely, that is the very essence of the HDO,” she said.
"I know that the Sandiganbayan knows that they need to urgently act on the issue of propriety of arrest warrant pero, siyempre, kasama sa obligasyon nila i-review talaga ang records para makumbinsi sila na mayrooon talagang probable cause for the issuance of arrest warrants," she added.
The Justice chief is confident that arrest warrants will be out soon despite the various motions filed by the accused, which she considers "dilatory tactics" and "frivolous motions."