Gov't can still run after 'pork' suspects who fled

by Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 22 2014 11:53 AM | Updated as of Jun 22 2014 11:48 PM

MANILA - The government can still run after those linked to the pork barrel scam who left the country before a hold departure order (HDO) against them could be issued, Malacañang said yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said there are several measures that the government can take.

“The first is we can seek the cancellation of passport, if the ombudsman would ask for it. Second, depending on where they would go, we have extradition treaties with other countries,” Valte said over radio dzRB.

Valte also said various agencies, especially the Bureau of Immigration (BI), would be more vigilant now that they have legal basis to prevent those accused in the scam from leaving the country.

Covered by the Sandiganbayan’s HDO are 53 personalities linked to the multibillion-peso scam. At least 22 are still in the country, including alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

On Friday, BI spokesperson Elaine Tan said former Technology Resource Center director general Antonio Ortiz and Renato Ornopia, who were linked to the scam, left the country before the Sandiganbayan issued the HDO.

Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison said yesterday that one of the court divisions of the Sandiganbayan expressed willingness to provide the BI with information that could help in checking the names of individuals involved in the scam.

“There was a fax sent to our office by the Sandiganbayan. I just don’t know which court. I have not seen it because I was outside the office,” Mison said.

Earlier, Mission said that the BI is validating 15 names of accused in the scam to check if they are still in the country. He explained that the BI has not yet begun to run the names of the 15 accused through its database since the agency is still waiting for information from the Sandiganbayan.

“We are not sure that the names that were given by the Sandiganbayan are the same names in our database. So we cannot categorically say if they are in or out of the country,” he said.

The BI chief also said that some of the accused have common names and that the agency has written to the Sandiganbayan to formalize a request for the full names of the accused and their date of births to verify records and avoid identifying mere namesakes of the accused.

The BI also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to check if these individuals used their real names in their passports.

Misson cited the case of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is also an accused in the scam. In the HDO, the Sandiganbayan was asking that “Jose Ejercito Estrada” be barred from leaving the country, but Sen. Estrada’s passport bears the name “Jinggoy Estrada.” With Evelyn Macairan