Arrest warrant out vs Cedric Lee, et al.
MANILA, Philippines—Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo and five others charged in the mauling of television host Vhong Navarro on Jan. 22 in a condominium unit in Taguig City could be arrested anytime because a city metropolitan trial court issued warrants for their arrest last Friday.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said that while the seven respondents could post bail for the grave coercion case, this would prevent any of them from leaving the country without clearance from the court.
“They need to post bail and secure court permission to leave Philippine jurisdiction,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.
Lee, Cornejo and five others (Bernice Lee, Simeon Raz, Jose Paolo Gregorio Calma, Ferdinand Guerrero and Sajed “Jed” Fernandez Abuhijleh) were charged last week with grave coercion as well as the serious illegal detention of Navarro. Serious illegal detention is a nonbailable offense.
The Taguig regional trial court has yet to issue an arrest warrant against the respondents for the serious illegal detention case because Lee’s camp questioned it through a motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
The Taguig RTC is expected to hear Lee’s motion Tuesday.
A few hours before her text message about the arrest warrants against the seven respondents, De Lima told reporters that Lee and the others face arrest should they attempt to leave the country without getting clearance either from the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the court.
De Lima said the respondents, whose names have been included in a lookout bulletin by the Bureau of Immigration, could be charged with obstruction of justice because their act of leaving would “hinder” the prosecution of the serious illegal detention and grave coercion case that the DOJ-NPS filed against them last week in the Taguig RTC.
“So my instruction is to stop them, arrest them because that would be flagrante delicto in violating Presidential Decree No. 1829, or in trying to obstruct justice. So [they can be stopped through] warrantless arrest and they can be subjected to inquest immediately,” the justice secretary said.
De Lima made the statement after one of the seven respondents, Ferdinand Guerrero, tried to take a flight to Hong Kong on Monday, but was stopped by immigration agents.
Guerrero, accused of helping Lee beat up Navarro, was supposed to board Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 108 bound for Hong Kong at 4:43 a.m. Monday when he was spotted falling in line at the immigration counter.
“Guerrero was referred to secondary inspection and was not cleared for departure upon coordination with concerned government agencies,” said lawyer Elaine Tan, technical assistant at the office of Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison.
Tan said Guerrero was barred from leaving the country pursuant to a lookout bulletin order (LBO) issued against him. According to the bureau, Guerrero hurriedly left the airport after arguing with the immigration officer.
An LBO does not restrict people from leaving the country but it compels those on the list trying to fly out to turn back because of the unwarranted attention it brings to them once they are accosted, the bureau said.
Lee booking canceled
On Saturday, Lee, who is also facing a tax evasion case in the DOJ, booked a Cebu Pacific flight to Dubai but the booking was later canceled when news about his flight spread.
Speaking to reporters, De Lima said the DOJ had received information that there were “bookings of flights last Friday and Saturday but these were canceled.” That was why, she said, the DOJ had sought not only the issuance of arrest warrants against the seven respondents but also a hold departure order (HDO) against them.
De Lima acknowledged that a person under an immigration lookout bulletin could not be stopped from leaving the country. “But it doesn’t mean that the state through the DOJ-NPS has no remedy to turn to when circumstances call for it.”
De Lima said the justice department’s “course of action” was to stop the respondents’ flight and to file obstruction of justice cases against them while there were no HDO and arrest warrants.
She said those placed in lookout bulletins were required to get a certification from the NPS before they could leave the country.
“You just cannot leave because that would be obstructing the processes before the prosecutors or before the NPS,” De Lima said.
De Lima said Guerrero was not charged with anything despite his attempt to leave Monday because he did not insist on leaving.
“If he had insisted, that would be the next course of action. Warrantless arrest,” she said.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said that when people are placed in a lookout bulletin, they cannot leave the country without getting a clearance from the NPS.
Arellano said that under PD 1829, an obstruction of justice case could be filed against any person “who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.”—With a report from Tetch Torres-Tupas, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted: April 14, 2014 | 3:11 pm
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