Gov’t bucks travel plans of Mike Arroyo, Syjuco, DichavesBy Cynthia D. Balana
MANILA, Philippines—Three prominent accused in criminal cases have had their wanderlust blocked by state prosecutors.
Government lawyers from the Office of the Ombudsman have vehemently opposed the travel applications of former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former Iloilo Rep. August Syjuco and businessman Jaime Dichaves who are all facing criminal charges in the Sandiganbayan.
In their opposition to Arroyo’s motion to travel abroad filed in the antigraft court’s Fifth Division, the prosecutors said he failed to demonstrate the urgency of his request to travel to Hong Kong and Japan from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4.
In his motion, Arroyo said he wanted to accompany his children and grandchildren on their semestral vacation to those two places in order to bond with them.
But the prosecutors said he failed to show the absolute necessity of his trip.
“The only reason accused wishes to travel abroad is to bond with his immediate family but he can easily do that here in our own country, without the need of going abroad and leaving the jurisdiction of the court,” they said.
“The nature of the offense for which accused has been charged, and his possible conviction for the offense, might motivate him not to return if he were authorized to leave the country,” the prosecutors said.
Arroyo is being tried for graft in connection with the allegedly anomalous sale of two used helicopters passed off as brand new for P105 million to the Philippine National Police.
Also in the Fifth Division, Syjuco’s motion to travel to Singapore and Malaysia from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5 was opposed by the prosecutors.
Syjuco said he wanted to go for a medical checkup and celebrate a wedding and birth anniversary in those countries.
In opposing Syjuco’s request, the prosecution said that given his vast financial resources he could easily escape the six counts of graft he is facing and remain abroad.
“Taking into account the strength of the evidence against the accused and that the travel requested is not absolutely necessary for the preservation of his life, he should not be granted authority to leave the country at the risk of evading the arm of the law,” it said.
In the Sandiganbayan’s Special Division, the prosecutors reminded the court and the Ombudsman of the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order enjoining them from proceeding with the arraignment and trial of Dichaves.
Dichaves earlier sought the court’s permission to leave the country to attend to business matters.
“Perusal of the motion to travel will show that his presence is not indispensable in the negotiating and contracting for his plaster glass company,” the prosecutors said.
They said it was clear Dichaves was capable of absconding and was a flight risk. This could be a way of escape which needs to be prevented,” they added.
Dichaves is a coaccused in the plunder complaint against former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. He contested the Ombudsman ruling charging him with plunder in the Sandiganbayan for allegedly conspiring with Estrada to amass illegal wealth.