Six of the 35 people included in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) lookout list after plunder and malversation charges were filed against them have left the country, an immigration official said yesterday. The charges were in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
The six who have left the country included former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza; Jessica Lucila Reyes, a former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile; Ruby Tuason, a representative of Enrile and Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada; former Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General Antonio Ortiz; former TRC Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan; and Nemesio Pablo Jr., head of Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.
BI spokesperson Ma. Angelica Pablo said Plaza, Ortiz and Cunanan left this month, while Reyes and Tuason left in August. Pablo Jr. left the country in May 2010.
The BI spokesperson declined to divulge the destinations or the flight details of the suspects.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the government could not compel those implicated in the alleged pork barrel scam to return to the country because the criminal complaints against them have yet to be filed in court.
Sign of wrongdoing
But De Lima did indicate that their flight could indicate their involvement in the alleged wrongdoing.
“On the psychological side of things, when they are leaving, isn’t that an indication that they have done something wrong?” she told reporters at the House of Representatives, where the Department of Justice’s budget was subject to plenary debates.
De Lima said that at this point, the government could request Interpol that the whereabouts of the personalities be monitored.
In case none of the personalities ever return home, she said the government could take action against them should there be a conviction in court. It could ask for extradition or seek assistance through a mutual legal assistance treaty.
BI Officer in Charge Siegfred Mison said he issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order against 35 of the 38 respondents on De Lima’s orders.
Out of courtesy
Mison said three respondents—Senators Enrile, Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.—were not included in the lookout list “out of courtesy toward members of a coequal branch of government.”
The lookout bulletin requires immigration officers to immediately relay any information to the Office of the Secretary of Justice and the Office of the Prosecutor General should any of the respondents attempt to leave the country via any of the international airports and seaports, Mison said.
He added that the lookout order was not a hold departure order as its purpose was to alert concerned agencies that a person on the list was about to leave the country.
Who’s who on the list
He said the list included alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and five former members of the House of Representatives: Plaza, Rizalina Seachon-Lanete (Masbate), Rep. Edgar Valdez (Apec party-list), Samuel Dangwa (Benguet), and Constantino Jaraula (Cagayan de Oro).
Also on the list were Richard Cambe, Pauline Labayen, Jose Sumalpong, Jeanette de la Cruz, Carlos Lozada, Erwin Dangwa, Alan Javellana, Gondelina Amata, Salvador Salacup, Jocelyn Piorato, Mylene Encarnacion, John Raymund de Asis, Evelyn Deleon, Ronald John Lim, Victor Cacal, Romulo Revelo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Julie Johnson, Rhodora Mendoza, Alexis Sevidal, Sofia Cruz, Chila Jalandoni, Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover.