Escudero opposes travel ban on Arroyo before she is charged in court
MANILA, Philippines—Just because the subject is former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo doesn’t make a travel ban right.
A close ally of President Aquino assailed Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, on Wednesday, for preventing Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman, from seeking medical treatment abroad despite the absence of a court case against her.
Sen. Francis Escudero said De Lima had no business issuing her own version of a hold-departure order (HDO)—in the form of a watch-list order — because only the courts could prevent someone from going anywhere.
“The HDO just seems right because the subject is GMA. But what if they do it to you or me?” he said in Filipino in a phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“Although I also don’t want her to escape, the process has to be right. The end doesn’t justify the means,” Escudero said.
Escudero welcomed the Arroyo camp’s decision to question the Department of Justice’s power to put people on the watchlist order and also to issue the “allow-departure” order or ADO. He said he was confident that the Supreme Court would rule against the DOJ circular, which covered the issuance of an ADO.
The senator said the proper recourse should have been for De Lima to file a case against Arroyo in court then ask it to issue an HDO against the former president, depending on the gravity of the case.
“Instead of trying to play issue by issuing an ADO herself, she should have just asked the court to make the issuance,” he said.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, another Aquino ally, earlier shared Escudero’s position that the DOJ had no power to bar Arroyo from leaving the country.
“The watch list (order), which has the effect of a hold-departure order, is illegal,” he had said. “The right to travel is a constitutional right, and a restriction on the right to travel in the guise of a watch list order, to me, is also illegal.”
Escudero said a bill now pending in the Senate would empower the chief of the Bureau of Immigration to issue an HDO. But the order will be effective only for a maximum of 10 days.
“The time frame would be just enough for the prosecution to seek a hold-departure order from the courts,” the senator said.
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