Solon urges DOJ to file raps vs Arroyo now, warns WLO is ‘wrong tack’
MANILA, Philippines—Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said on Tuesday the government’s decision to prevent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country through a watch-list order was “the wrong track” since the right to travel could not be impaired by the President in the absence of a law or a court order.
Reacting to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s decision to reject Arroyo’s application for travel to seek medical treatment abroad and Arroyo’s petition before the Supreme Court questioning such decision, Colmenares said the high court would most likely rule against De Lima or President Aquino here.
“Instead of violating the Constitution, the government must rather uphold it by ensuring that (ex) President Arroyo is made to account by filing cases against her,” he said.
He did recognize, though, that Arroyo might just be planning to evade prosecution for plunder charges filed against her based on her track record as a president.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said the DOJ secretary’s decision was not final, which could be challenged in court on the basis of the right to travel being a constitutional right limited only by issues of national security, public health and public safety.
“I’m sure the DOJ has reasons for acting as it did but the Supreme Court will be the final interpreter of the Constitution in this case and I predict even the justices may have differing opinions on this issue regarding the power of the DOJ secretary to issue a hold departure order,” Angara said.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada and Assistant Majority Leader Romero “Miro” Quimbo said that Arroyo could always go to the Supreme Court to challenge the DOJ’s decision on her request for travel.
“GMA has still a remedy by going to the Supreme Court to question the decision of the DOJ whether there was a violation of GMA’s right to travel,” Tañada said.
Tañada, a representative of Quezon, said that having Arroyo arraigned first before allowing her to travel abroad would enable the wheels of justice to grind and allow her to answer allegations of possible wrongdoing during her presidency.
He also said that the fear of flight came from Arroyo’s poor record when it came to transparency.
“That is why I go back to the question, ‘Is it life threatening’? If the life of the former president would not be put in jeopardy in the next month or so, then is it a possibility that we can wait another month or so before allowing her to leave?” Tañada asked.
Marikina Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo said on Tuesday that De Lima’s decision to place Arroyo on watch-list based on a DOJ circular authorizing the justice secretary to issue a hold departure order against certain individuals was a valid action.
He said it would be up to the Supreme Court to make a final determination of whether the DOJ decision was unconstitutional or valid.
Informed about the opinions from legal luminaries such as Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Franklin Drilon in favor of Arroyo’s right to travel, Quimbo said their opinions would not matter since they were not members of the Supreme Court.
In the same way, Quimbo said only medical specialists, not members of Congress, could determine whether Arroyo’s ailment might be life-threatening or if there was indeed urgency in her request to travel.
“We have to keep going back to the issue which is really the urgency of the medical procedure that she is seeking which I think should be the sole basis for the decision, whether there is a danger of flight. I think the threat to life is far superior than the threat of flight,” Quimbo said.
“The right to travel can happen anytime. What is being discussed here is really the degree or urgency and the validity of the reason for travel. It doesn’t matter whether it is (made) after or before the arraignment (of Mrs. Arroyo for various plunder and poll rigging charges),” Quimbo said.
San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito said Arroyo was really bent on leaving the country to escape prosecution.
“Because they have intended to go to many countries, including those without extradition treaty (with the Philippines), malinaw na malinaw na gustong tumakas! (it’s very clear that she wants to escape),” Ejercito said.
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