The Sandiganbayan has allowed former Senator Jose Estrada to travel to Hong Kong where he will spend the Holiday season with his family.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division approved Estrada’s motion for leave of court to travel to Hong Kong with his family on Dec. 26, 2018 and will stay there until Dec. 31, 2018.
“For the reason stated therein and considering that the right to travel is a constitutional right which cannot be impaired except in cases provided by law, and that accused-movant Estrada has been previously granted travel abroad, the instant motion is granted,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Ombudsman prosecutors earlier opposed Estrada’s motion, saying “he can better spend and enjoy the holidays... [that] celebrating the holidays in the Philippines is more fun than anywhere else considering the lovely colorful practices handed down through generations that are alive and well in this wonderful country.”
In his travel motion, Estrada stressed that he is not a flight risk; and that the purpose of the travel is a “much-needed” family bonding.
Estrada is facing a P183-million plunder charge and multiple counts of graft on allegations of conspiracy with his former staff Pauline Labayen, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, and several other individuals who was allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam.
Estrada was allowed to post bail by the anti-graft court even if plunder is a capital offense; since the prosecution has failed to provide evidence that the former senator is the main plunderer or the principal beneficiary in the questioned transactions.
The travel permit was signed by Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos, Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega, and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac.
In Hong Kong, Estrada just might bump into Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., who had asked the Sandiganbayan that he will be allowed to travel to the same place to spend the holidays with his family.
In a motion for leave filed on Dec. 12, Floirendo informed the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division that he will fly out of the country from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, 2019.
Floirendo also told the court he was able to secure a travel authority from the office of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on December 10. He attached this document in his motion.
“Accused-movant would like to take advantage of the Christmas season holidays for a needed respite and rest from his legislative duties and to be with family,” Floirendo said.
“In fact, the records of this case will show that the accused has promptly complied with all the conditions set by this honorable court in connection with his previous travels abroad,” he added.
Floirendo is facing graft charges at the Sandiganbayan owing to his alleged financial interest in the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tagum Agricultural Development Authority (TADECO), where his family is a major stockholder, and its subsidiary Anflo Management and Investment Corporation, for the lease of land in the Davao Penal Colony to be used as a banana plantation.
The JVA was executed in 1979 which extended the period of lease for 25 years and renewed in May 2003 for another 25 years.