Supreme Court allows Arroyo to travel
Voting 8-5, the Supreme Court on Tuesday flashed the green light on the plan of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, to leave the country purportedly to seek treatment abroad for her bone ailment.
Jose Midas Marquez, the Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson, said the Arroyos were “able to show that they are entitled to the relief prayed for” in their separate petitions for certiorari and prohibition.
Marquez also said the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the high court was immediately executory and of indefinite duration.
“The continuance of their inclusion in the watch-list order might work as injustice to them,” Marquez said at a news conference.
He said the TRO was a mere “provisional remedy” and “does not say if one is guilty or if one should be acquitted.”
“This is just a provisional remedy given by the court for the party seeking that remedy,” he said. “It’s consistent with the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence… You must take note that [the Arroyos] are not yet accused.”
The high court cited the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence in granting the former first couple’s petition for a TRO on their inclusion in the immigration bureau’s watch list. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the Arroyo couple put on the watch list on October 28.
Only on Monday, the joint panel of the Department of Justice and Commission on Elections submitted for resolution the results of its inquiry into the two electoral sabotage cases filed against the couple and 38 other persons in connection with the alleged election fraud in Mindanao in 2007.
In allowing the Arroyo couple to travel abroad, the full court set three conditions which they are obliged to satisfy, Marquez said.
He said these conditions were the payment of a P2-million cash bond, the appointment of a legal representative for both Arroyo and her husband, and their personal appearance or call at the Philippine Embassy or consular office in the country they were to visit.
“The appointment of a legal representative is to ensure that both [Mike Arroyo] and the former President would receive all the subpoenas and other documents [needed] for the legal processes,” Marquez said.
The government may file a manifestation with the high court should the Arroyos violate these conditions, he said.
Marquez said that by issuing the injunctive order, the high court “indefinitely” voided the implementation of DOJ Circular No. 41 which authorized De Lima to put anyone on the immigration bureau’s watch list and issue a hold-departure order.
How they voted
“But the TRO only involves the Arroyo couple, being the petitioners,” he said, noting that there were other persons included by the justice department in the watch list.
The “political differences” among the 15 members of the high court were evident in the way they voted on the Arroyo petition, a senior court official told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Chief Justice Renato Corona and the seven other magistrates who voted to issue the TRO—Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. and Jose Perez—were all appointed by Arroyo during her nine-year presidency.
Accused of being Arroyo’s “midnight appointee,” Corona once served as her chief of staff and spokesperson.
Of the five dissenters, three are appointees of President Aquino—Associate Justices Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Jose Mendoza are the other dissenters.
Scheduled oral arguments
The five justices who voted against the Arroyo petition wanted the high court to conduct a hearing on the case before issuing a decision, according to Marquez.
He said the tribunal scheduled oral arguments on the Arroyos’ petition on November 22.
Marquez said the court had also ordered the Arroyos and the DOJ through the Office of the Solicitor General to file their respective comments within three days.
Marquez also disclosed that the high court’s regular en banc session on Tuesday “lasted unusually longer.”
“There was a prolonged discussion on this particular item because of the arguments and counterarguments,” he said.
Asked if the justices included in their discussions the fact that the countries which the Arroyos were planning to visit had no extradition treaty with the Philippines, he said: “I think that’s going too far.
“I don’t know if they went to that extent.”
Marquez said that while the lifting of the travel ban on the Arroyos was immediately executory, he said the Office of the Solicitor General could still appeal for a reversal of the order.
In the event that the justice department filed a case against the Arroyos in the lower courts, the government must inform the tribunal that such a formal complaint had been filed, he said.
Marquez said the TRO would not cover a hold-departure order which the lower court might issue on the couple.
Originally posted: 1:21 pm | Tuesday, November 15th, 2011