Sandiganbayan erred in denying businessman’s travel request — SC
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion when it turned down the travel request of an accused businessman for fear that he might escape because of his Chinese-sounding surname.
Joseph Sy, an official of the Philippine International Chamber of Commerce (PICC), is facing a case for violation of the Anti-Graft Law.
Sy, who is also the chairperson of a publicly listed Philippine corporation, the P20-billion Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc., and the committee chairman for Mining of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked the Sandiganbayan to allow him to go on a business trip abroad.
He needs permission from the Court because he is the subject of a hold departure order.
The Sandiganbayan, however, denied his request for his alleged failure to show the indispensability of the business travel. It also pointed out that Sy’s business interest and ties do not remove the possibility that he might escape given his citizenship.
But the Supreme Court said the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in assessing the request of Sy.
The high court’s 2nd Division, through Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, said Sy’s travel records from 2014 to 2017 from the Bureau of Immigration is consistent with his travel request.
“This supports his contention that his requested travels were not contrived for him to abscond from criminal prosecution,” the high court said.
It added that “Sy’s Chinese-sounding surname and middle name do not serve to increase the probability of his flight but, at most, merely points to his lineage.”
“Besides, restricting Sy’s right to travel based on his surname would be tantamount to unduly faulting him for a status natural to his person, which he did not choose for himself and for which he was not responsible for,” the high court added.
The high court said the Sandiganbayan “unduly” based its ruling on the unresolved claims against Sy’s citizenship before another government body. It pointed out, however, the Sy’s birth certificate stated that he is a Filipino.
“Settled is the rule that facts contained therein such as birth certificates, are prima facie evidence of the facts contained therein such as on citizenship. No evidence was even presented to counter Sy’s status as a Filipino citizen or show that he is a citizen of his destination country,” the high court said.
Sy’s deportation was earlier sought before the Bureau of Immigration by a resident of Olongapo City for allegedly faking his Filipino citizenship to legalize his mining investments in the country.
The SC reminded the Sandiganbayan that it is not barred from imposing travel restriction to ensure Sy’s return such as the deposit of a travel bond, submission of a detailed and confirmed flight and travel itinerary, appearance before a Philippine consul upon arrival in the destination country, personal appearance or written advice to the court upon his return.
Concurring with the ruling were Senior Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Andres Reyes Jr., and Jose Reyes Jr.
Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa was on leave. /ee
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