UNLESS there is a court order banning Filipino members of the Korean-based Unification Church (Moonies) from leaving the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said yesterday they cannot prevent them from going to South Korea and joining mass wedding there.
Acting Immigration Commissioner Alan Roullo Yap clarified that BI cannot be blamed for allowing the Moonies to leave since the hold departure orders (HDO) previously issued by the bureau against the sect's officials and members was already lifted by the Department of Justice (DOJ). "The HDOs were already lifted on the basis of an order from the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) dismissing the criminal cases against the Moonies," Yap said.
Yap was reacting to the statement of Sen. Tessie Oreta accusing the BI of being lax in checking the activities of the Moonies who are allegedly engaged in mail-order bribe activities here. Oreta chided the BI for being remiss in its job and should share the blame for the plight of Filipino women being lured into "forced marriages" in other countries.
However, Yap stressed that the BI cannot just impose a travel ban on the Moonies in the absence of an order from the court or the DOJ. He pointed out that under the revised rules and regulations on the issuance of HDOs, the responsibility of including persons in the hold departure list is now with the DOJ and the courts.
"In fact, the same rules provide for the automatic review by the justice secretary of all HDOs issued by the Immigration Bureau," Yap said. Yap pointed out that the BI cannot just bar anyone from leaving the country, lest immigration officials be accused of violating the passengers' constitutional right to travel.
Records showed that Pasay MTC Branch 48 Judge Pedro Corales dismissed the case on June 3, 1998 after the DOJ prosecutors filed a motion to withdraw the criminal information against the Moonies who were charged with violating the Revised Penal Code. ¨