Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stay on watch list–De Lima
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will remain on the immigration watch list amid confusing reports over the weekend that the former president’s condition had worsened and she would be seeking medical treatment abroad.
“The WLO (watch list order) is still there. Whether or not I will lift it depends on the justification, if there is one, and if there will be such a request (for its lifting). That’s why I don’t want to comment on that without the formal request to me. Of course, I will look at the reasons, what the basis would be,” De Lima told reporters.
Arroyo remains confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City for an infection in her spine after undergoing two surgeries on July 29 and Aug. 10.
The report that Arroyo’s doctors supposedly advised the former President to seek medical treatment for her damaged spine either in the United States or Singapore was attributed to lawyer Raul Lambino, her spokesperson, who promptly denied it.
In response to that report, Malacañang said it would be up to De Lima to decide whether or not Arroyo could leave the country.
The justice secretary placed Arroyo on the watch list because of plunder complaints against her pending in the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Not time to verify
Asked if she would have Arroyo’s condition verified, De Lima said this was not yet called for.
“I am not lifting the WLO yet. So I will wait for a formal request so that I will know the proper course of action I would take to guide me in my decision whether or not to grant that.”
Malacañang on Monday reiterated its call for the spokesperson of Arroyo to refrain from making conflicting statements on her medical condition lest people end up not believing them.
Edwin Lacierda also denied accusations by Lambino that the Palace was engaged in “witchhunting.”
Lacierda said the Palace could not do anything to stop the government’s cases against Ms Arroyo.
“If we are going to do that for one particular person, then due process would require us to stop all investigations of other persons as well,” Lacierda said.
“This is not to say that we are heartless. I think this is totally different from being heartless. We have laws that we are supposed to execute,” he said.
Commission on Human Rights Chair Loretta Ann Rosales called on the government to be “sensitive” to the plight of Arroyo, although she did not see anything wrong with placing her on the immigration watch list.
During the budget hearing of the Commission on Human Rights, Rosales told representatives: “We should be sensitive and pray for her as a fellow human being.”
Speaking in Tanauan, Leyte, Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches said he did not see anything wrong with placing Arroyo on the watch list. But he urged the nation to pray for her recovery.
“There’s nothing wrong with placing her under a watch list because she is facing cases, such as plunder,” said Bacani, who officiated the Mass celebrating the 103rd of Tanauan town fiesta on Monday.
“There are strong indications, such as the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office issue, (in which she was reportedly) using its (intelligence) fund,” Bacani said. Bacani urged Arroyo to face the charges filed against her.
Bill filed on hold orders
Meanwhile, a measure that would grant the proper court exclusive jurisdiction over the issuance of hold departure orders against individuals was filed yesterday by House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman.
House Bill No. 5111 seeks to remove from the President and the secretary of justice the prerogative to issue an order preventing the travel or departure of an accused to a foreign destination.
De Lima is currently empowered to put names on a watch list based on a DOJ order issued by her predecessor, Alberto Agra, during the last days of the Arroyo administration.
In filing the bill, Lagman said that any restriction or limitation to basic constitutional rights must be adjudicated and imposed by the proper judicial forum with strict observance of due process.
According to Lagman, Section 6 of Article III of the Constitution provides that “Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
“The indiscriminate inclusion of a person’s name in the WLO even prior to the filing of a formal complaint in the prosecutor’s office and finding of probable cause to support indictment or before the institution of an information in court, besmirches such person’s reputation, convicts before trial and criminalizes alleged acts without due process,” Lagman said in the bill’s explanatory note.
In his bill, the government needs to present compelling evidence to the proper court to secure a hold-departure order. The affected party can also appeal to a higher court. With reports from Gil Cabacungan, Christine Avendano and Cynthia Balana; and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas