Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jinggoy camp says De Lima’s move to cancel his passport is a violation of his constitutional rights

MANILA-In a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada through his counsel Estelito Mendoza, says that the cancellation of his passport would “amount to a crippling impairment of [his] fundamental right to travel and egregious violation of fundamental right to liberty.”
The letter was in response to the request of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to the Department of Foreign Affairs for the expeditious cancellation of his passport last October 23.
The letter was received by the Central Records Division of the DFA on the same date November 14.
Sen. Estrada, through his counsel, opposes the cancellation of his passport as it is violative of his rights under the Constitution and international covenants, particularly Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which state that everyone has the right to leave and to return to his country.
Mendoza also slammed the remarks made by Sec. de Lima suggesting that Sen. Estrada would leave the country in order to evade arrest, detention and prosecution, and branded it as “utterly without foundation and terribly unkind.”
Mendoza asks that the DOJ’s request for the cancellation of passport of Sen. Estrada be “peremptorily rejected.”
He cited pertinent provisions of the Republic Act 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 which enumerates the grounds for passport cancellation. To wit, Section 8 (b) provides the following: 1) When the holder is a fugitive from justice; 2) When the holder has been convicted of a criminal offense; 3) When the passport was acquired fraudulently or tampered with.
Mendoza also argues that the same law does not confer on the Secretary of Foreign Affairs the authority to cancel the passport of Estrada.
Section 4 of the Passport Act, he says, is not the law and may not be regarded as the law required by Section 6, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution to limit the right to travel in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health.
Mendoza adds that “it would be undue delegation of legislative power” to the DFA Secretary, and the power vested to him to cancel passports is limited to specific grounds provided under Section 8 of RA 8239.
Further, the Passport Act does not provide that the cancellation of passports of those who are accused of plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman is in the interest of national security.
Mendoza underscores that Sen. Estrada is not a fugitive from justice nor has been convicted of a criminal offense.
“No law has also been enacted prohibiting any person accused on plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman from leaving the country and obtaining a passport for that purpose or if one has been issued, for its cancellation,” he asserts.
Mendoza explains that before final judgment of conviction, not until the issuance of warrant of arrest by the Sandiganbayan upon determination of a probable cause may the right to travel of the accused be limited if the Sandiganbayan issues a hold departure order.
Any restraint of liberty, including right to travel, at any stage of criminal proceedings, not imposed by the Sandiganbayan is implicitly prohibited.
In essence, if granted, the request of Sec. de Lima for the cancellation of the passport of Sen. Estrada would inflict upon him punishment even before the Office of the Ombudsman finds adequate basis to conduct a preliminary investigation of the complaint of the National Bureau of Investigation.

P14.5-B supplemental budget filed in the Senate

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon formally filed a bill that will authorize the executive to spend additional P14.5 billion for fiscal year 2013 and that will provide funds to repair various infrastructures, including P4 billion for school buildings, heavily damaged by recent calamities particularly super typhoon “Yolanda.”

The bill seeks to source the P14.5 Billion from the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations for 2013, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

In filing Senate Bill No. 1938, the Senate chief emphasized the urgency to pass a supplemental budget to cover the costs of unforeseen expenses brought about by successive natural and man-made disasters that hit the country during the second semester.

“The damage caused by recent calamities requires intensified efforts for rehabilitation, repair and construction of severely damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities in order to accelerate recovery,” said Drilon. “Our people urgently need the augmented support of the government for rehabilitation.”

With just five weeks left in the legislative session, Drilon pointed out the necessity for the Congress to expedite the passage of the bill as the current General Appropriations Act will expire by December 31.

As with the national budget, the supplemental budget is an appropriation measure which should originate, but Drilon said: “given the urgency of providing funds to the rehabilitation or reconstruction efforts, we in the Senate can already start consultations on the proposed supplemental budget, while waiting for the certification of the national treasurer as to the availability of funds and for the House to pass and transmit to the Senate its version of the measure.”   

In his proposed supplemental budget, P2.75 billion and P1.25 billion will go to the Department of Education and state universities and colleges, respectively, for the repair and rehabilitation of school and academic buildings.

Likewise, P3 billion is allotted for the Department of Public Works and Highways to repair roads, bridges and other government infrastructure and another P1.5 billion for the restoration of declared historical sites which were damaged specifically by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Visayas region.

The supplemental budget will also cover expenses for the repair of hospitals amounting P1 billion and purchase of hospital equipment amounting P500 million through the Department of Health. The National Housing Authority, on the other hand, will receive P1.5 billion for the purchase of relocation sites and construction of housing units.

Lastly, the supplemental budget will provide P1 billion to the Department of Transportation and Communications to repair airports and ports and P1 billion to the local government units to repair rural health centers and fund other rehabilitation programs.

Legarda: Phl Wins Seat in UNESCO World Heritage Committee

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today announced that the Philippines has won a seat in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee during elections held on November 19 in Paris, France.

Legarda said that according to UNESCO Permanent Delegate and Ambassador to France Cristina Ortega, there were 22 candidate countries that competed for 12 seats and the Philippines won with 116 votes, second only to Turkey.

“I congratulate our government and the Department of Foreign Affairs, especially our Philippine UNESCO team who have worked hard for this achievement,” said Legarda, who headed the Philippine Delegation to the 37th UNESCO General Conference.

“Our nation has been devastated by disasters of great magnitude of late. It is unfortunate that several of our heritage structures, some of which are included in our World Heritage Tentative List, have been greatly damaged due to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol. That is why we warmly welcome the news of our successful election to the World Heritage Committee. For a nation that is overflowing with rich culture and with natural and man-made wonders, this is certainly a great blessing,” she stressed.

According to the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, the World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties. It also decides on properties to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, as well as those to be inscribed or deleted in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Philippines has five sites inscribed in the World Heritage List—the Baroque Churches of the Philippines (located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao); the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras; the Historic City of Vigan; and the Puerto Princesa Subterrenean River National Park.


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