by Harley F. Palangchao
The camp of former Benguet representative Samuel Dangwa asked the Department of Foreign Affairs not to grant the request to cancel the passports of former and current officials linked to the P10 billion pork barrel scam.
Dangwa, through his legal counsel Edgar Avila, informed the DFA he and the other accused have not been convicted of the crime as alleged and they are not serious threats to national security.
Dangwa, through a comment prepared by his counsel, described as false the allegation made by the Department of Justice to the National Bureau of Investigation that one of the best options left for the accused is to simply leave the country.
“The accused is not only bent on facing the alleged charges but also holds the firm conviction that he and his family’s interests would be best serve if he stays put and clear his name,” reads the motion of Dangwa.
The DOJ, in asking the DFA for the cancellation of the passports of the accused, claimed plunder is a non-bailable offense and the possibility that several of the subject persons will be detained throughout the trial of their case is high, and therefore there is strong probability they will attempt to leave the country to evade arrest, detention, and prosecution altogether.
But the camp of the long-time legislator also informed the DFA and the NBI, which is in charge of investigating the pork barrel scam, that “accusation is not synonymous to guilt.”
“The fact that no criminal information has been filed against the oppositor before any court of competent jurisdiction, invalidates the entire argument of the DOJ against the oppositor that since corruption is a matter of national security, his right to travel may therefore be curtailed by the cancellation of his passport,” the motion reads further.
Earlier, Dangwa said he welcomes the filing of plunder charges against him and 37 several past and present public officials in relation to the P10B pork barrel scam.
He said early conclusions that he is culpable of having misused his priority development assistance fund in connivance with non-government organizations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, are unfair.
“Despite the fact that I was not heard earlier as I wished, I nonetheless will welcome the elevation of the investigation to a more formal level, even if such transition would mean more vilification of my person before the bar of public opinion,” he said.
On Wednesday, DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima announced the NBI wants all assets of all personalities involved in the pork barrel scam be subject of a freeze order.
The Court of Appeals already issued a freeze order on four lawmakers, including Dangwa and chiefs of staffs of legislators implicated in the scam.