MANILA, Philippines - Amid criticisms over the special treatment being accorded Sen. Jinggoy Estrada while detained on plunder and graft charges, some netizens are also questioning the "preferential treatment" that his son got from a government office.
A citizen has lodged a petition via the online platform Change.org asking the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to explain why the senator's son, Joseph Luis Manuel Ejercito (also known as Jolo Estrada), was given a diplomatic passport, as gleaned from online posts showing his "lavish lifestyle," which is now making the rounds on social media.
"The DFA should explain to the public why Jolo Estrada, son of Jinggoy Estrada, has a diplomat passport. Why is there preferential treatment given?" read the petition by Greg Martinez from Manila.
"We should be vigilant in protecting the sanctity of our public funds, which should have been used to buffer the negative effects of inflation [from] which we are suffering," he said.
The DFA on Thursday confirmed that it had issued a diplomatic passport to Jolo, one of the senator's four children, for an official trip with his father when he was still a minor.
Under the law, officials entitled to diplomatic passports may extend the privilege to their spouses and unmarried children who are minors, the DFA spokesman, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, said on Thursday.
Jose said Ejercito was 18 when he was issued a diplomatic passport.
"According to DFA regulations, principals who are entitled to diplomatic passports, their spouses and unmarried minor children who will accompany them on official travel are entitled to diplomatic passports, but only on official travel. So pursuant to that regulation, the son of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was issued a diplomatic passport," Jose told reporters.
Valid for 3 years
Diplomatic passports issued to officials and their qualified family members are valid for up to three years, said Jose.
He said relatives of government officials or diplomats issued diplomatic passports by extension, however, may not use the document if traveling without the principal or for trips other than official missions, such as vacations.
"He can't travel on his own. It should be an official travel together with the principal. It should be an official mission," said Jose, adding that Ejercito "most probably" has an ordinary passport for his personal travels.