THE Department of Justice on Saturday allowed Senator Leila de Lima to leave the country despite the allegations that she is a key protector of drug traffickers from the country’s national penitentiary.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre explained his department had to issue De Lima an Allow Departure Order (ADO) since no case has been filed against her yet.
“Acting on the letter of Senator De Lima relative to her plan to travel abroad, the DoJ has issued an Allow Departure Order or ADO to allow her to travel abroad because no case has yet been filed against her before the courts,” DoJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said relaying Aguirre’s response.
On Friday, De Lima wrote Aguirre a letter baring her plan to travel to the United States to accept an award and to Germany to speak before the Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy.
De Lima said that both visits are “very important” to her as a lawmaker.
“I will have a chance to speak before influential world leaders and global thinkers on raising awareness and support for human rights, an advocacy I am passionate about,” De Lima wrote in a statement.
De Lima assured the public that she will return to the country despite ongoing hearing against her alleged involvement in illegal drug trade.
“I hope my brief absence would provide a welcome relief and respite to my detractors and critics. I will keep them in mind though,” the lady lawmaker said.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, however, expressed disappointment over Aguirre’s decision, saying it will try to prevent De Lima from leaving the country on Sunday. De Lima is scheduled to leave the country on Sunday night and said she will be back on December 22.
The group said in forum that the VACC filed two separate cases against her before the DoJ and Supreme Court in October.
One was a drug trafficking complaint implicating De Lima in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison; and a disbarment case against her because of her admitted illicit affair with her former driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.
Two other disbarment case have been filed against De Lima by lawyers Agustin Sundiam and Ricardo Rivera.
“She should stay in the country to answer to the charges that we filed against her,” VACC chairman Dante Jimenez asserted.
Balmes, on the other hand, said that Aguirre is just following the law allowing any individuals to travel until the proper court issues a Hold Departure Order (HDO).
“The DoJ respect the right of everyone to express their opinion. However, one of the duties of the DoJ is to enforce our laws,” Aguirre said.
He also noted that De Lima has acquired a travel authority signed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III. “We respect and follow the law,” Balmes said.
“The DoJ under the watch of Secretary Aguirre will not be the first to violate the law or to violate the rights of any person,” Balmes pointed out.
The only legal resort that the VACC has is to ask President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the travel clearance, VACC lawyer Lorenzo Gadon said.
Both Jimenez and Gadon feared that De Lima might not return and seek refuge to Germany, which does not have an extradition treaty with the Philippines.
Jimenez said De Lima has another hearing on December 21 but the lawmaker is schedule to return to the Philippines on December 22.
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