Miami, Florida, Feb. 28, 2003 -- "Thank God Almighty and the American justice system, Mark Jimenez is a free man once again!"

These were the words of Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez moments after he was released from a federal prison in Miami, Florida, on a $500,000 bail bond, Bulacan Rep. Willie Villarama reported yesterday,

Describing his phone conversation with his colleague in Congress, Villarama said Jimenez sounded like a man overflowing with happiness.

"Rightfully so for Congressman Jimenez could help feeling vindicated that the bail that had been so unfairly denied him in the Philippines was given to him in the States. For him, the US remains a bastion of truth, justice, and fair play," said Villarama.

"He (Jimenez) considers this a significant step towards his return to the Philippines," added the Bulacan solon, who with Rep. Prospero Pichay, accompanied Jimenez in his voluntary trip to the US last Dec. 26 to face charges there.

Villarama said Jimenez profusely thanked friends, supporters, and family members who generously chipped in everything they had to help cover his bail bond. He also had nothing but glowing words for members of Philippine media and the countless people in the Philippines who never lost faith in him.

"Congressman Jimenez said that if not for the support of so many people, he could have succumbed to despair and a feeling of gloom and helplessness. But he never wavered in his belief that justice and the truth will triumph in the end," Villarama added.

"Let our friends in media in the Philippines know of my heartfelt gratitude for their vigilance in telling the travails and sufferings of Mark Jimenez, the continuing vilification campaign against me by some high government officials in the Philippines," Villarama quoted Jimenez as saying.

"Nagpasalamat siya sa media dahil kung pinatay nga naman ang mga istorya sa press ay di na nalaman pa ng madla ang pagpapahirap na ginawa kay Mark Jimenez," Villarama said.

Despite the legal victory racked up by Jimenez, Villarama said the grave wrong that had been wrought on Jimenez in the Philippines and during his trip to the US should be investigated by Congress.

He said that if not for a seeming conspiracy involving some Philippine officials and James Nixon of the American Embassy in Manila, Congressman Jimenez might not have stayed a day or two longer in jail in Miami.

Villarama said he is filing another resolution seeking a congressional probe of the NBI and the Department of Justice for what he called a betrayal of the right of Filipinos to fair treatment and justice as exemplified by their seeming complicity with Nixon's excesses.

"Ang nakalulungkot dito ay may mga Pilipinong Hudas na nakiisa sa Amerikanong si Nixon para pahirapan si Congressman Mark Jimenez (It's sad that there were Filipino Judases who collaborated with the American Nixon in the inhuman treatment of Congressman Jimenez)," said Villarama.

Jimenez was forced by Nixon to take another plane bound for Saipan in lieu of the original scheduled flight to Miami in what was seen by Villarama as a diversionary tactic designed to keep Jimenez in jail during the Yuletide holidays.

Jimenez's release was ordered by Miami Magistrate Ted Bandstra after a detainer issued by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) against Jimenez for supposedly being an illegal alien was quashed.

"There was no problem with the bail to start with. It's just that after the FBI lost Congressman Jimenez's passport and so the INS wanted to declare him an illegal alien for entering America without the proper documents," Villarama explained.

"But then the judge ordered the US government to produce Congressman Jimenez's documents and it appeared on the computer copy of his passport that he has a visa," he added.

Villarama said Congress should investigate whether there was a conspiracy to make Congressman Jimenez pay for the bombshells that he exploded on the supposed high-level corruption in government.

"E mukhang nagpagamit sila kay Nixon dahil sa airport pa lang ay inaresto na siya. Kulang na lang na hinubaran siya bago isinakay ng eroplano (It seems they allowed themselves to be used by Nixon because he was arrested right at the airport, taking almost everything away from him even his pants)," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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