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Prosecutors make it hard for Binays to go on a trip to Israel

Elenita has a good chance to get travel authority, but her husband Jejomar faces trickier issues in his motion

THREE HEARINGS IN A DAY. Former Makati City mayor Elenita Binay attends three hearings from morning to afternoon on April 27, 2017 all on her motion to travel to Israel for the Binay family’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Will the Binays make it as a family to Israel for a pilgrimage? State prosecutors are giving them a hard time.

Former Makati City mayor Elenita Binay spent all day at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Thursday, April 27, attending 3 hearings on her motion to travel to Israel in May for a "spiritually-charged" pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Elenita has pending charges in the court’s third, fourth and fifth divisions, all of which she needed to submit a motion to in order to secure the authority to travel.

The prosecutors handling her charges before the fourth division contested the motion in open court on Thursday, saying there is no compelling reason to allow Elenita to travel, given that the trip is not health-related.

Prosecutors also hit the fact that Elenita did not want to give them her personal mobile number. Instead, she put in the hotel’s trunkline number.

Fourth Division justices told Elenita’s lawyers "it’s not that easy" to get hold of Elenita’s whereabouts by connecting to a hotel trunkline. "Do you think it’s that easy for a hotel to divulge the information of its guests when you call them?" Justice Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta said.

If Elenita wants to keep her personal mobile number private, the justices ordered her to buy an alternative SIM card and give the number to the prosecutors within the day. The matter is now submitted for resolution by the justices of all divisions.

Will Jejomar be allowed?

The court has allowed Elenita to travel many times before. She has, in fact, just come from Osaka, Japan in the first week of April.

It’s the motion to travel by her husband, former vice president Jejomar Binay, that’s tricky.

Jejomar is yet to be arraigned for his graft, malversation of public funds, and falsification of public documents charges for the alleged overpriced construction of the P2.2-billion Makati City Hall parking building.

For the court to attain jurisdiction over Jejomar and be able to issue a travel authority, Jejomar must first be arraigned.

Traditionally, the court conditionally arraigns the accused. In Jejomar’s conditional arraignment, the court said "should the prosecution resolve to proceed with the case after the reinvestigation, the conditional arraignment will stand as the regular arraignment of the accused."

Jejomar wanted the conditional arraignment amended so that upon his return from Israel, the arraignment gets nullified. According to his lawyers, it is so Jejomar can still avail of legal remedies such as file a motion to quash.

Jejomar said it is to "protect him from uncertainties that will prejudice his rights and remedies."

According to the prosecution, Jejomar’s fear is "imaginary," saying that "there is nothing in the condition that suggest that accused is waiving his right to seek quashal of the Information on grounds other than double jeopardy."

"It is important to note that the Court itself assured… the accused [that he] can still file a motion to quash," the prosecution said in its opposition submitted to the third division on Wednesday, April 26. "To allow the amendment of the condition will open the floodgates for more frivolous and whimsical modification," the prosecution said.

The prosecution also still stands by its original position that Jejomar should not be allowed to travel because he ought to be considered a flight risk.

The Binay family trip includes children and grandchildren. Their son Junjun, also former Makati City Mayor, has also filed his motion to travel seeing that he also has charges in court, but he has since withdrew the motion because he has more pressing matters to attend to here.

Jejomar, in his original motion, said his request to go on a pilgrimage is an "exceptional case" because he’s almost 75 years old and a devout Catholic.

"If (Jejomar) finds it difficult to comply with the conditions of the court then probably it is better if he just stays in the country," the prosecution said.

Junjun is charged over the same issue as his father, just over a different phase of construction of the parking building when he became mayor. Elenita is charged for multiple counts of graft over allegedly overpriced office fixtures, hospital beds, and sterilizers purchased during her term as mayor. – Rappler.com