Dominican Republic official denies asylum report
The Dominican Republic’s foreign minister has denied reports that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had requested asylum in the Caribbean nation.
Carlos Morales Troncoso told The Associated Press in the Dominican Republic on Friday that they had not received an application for asylum from Arroyo.
Arroyo is facing corruption and poll fraud complaints and has been barred by the Philippine government from seeking medical treatment abroad.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said last week that she was checking reports that Arroyo had sought political asylum in the Dominican Republic, which she visited early this year.
President Aquino has refused to lift Arroyo’s travel ban, saying she might not return to face the charges, which she denies.
Meanwhile, Malacañang on Saturday downplayed De Lima’s purported faux pas in announcing an unverified text message circulating in Manila that said Arroyo was seeking asylum in the Dominican Republic.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reacted to the Arroyo camp’s threat to seek the disbarment of De Lima for releasing the unconfirmed information.
“This is part of all the noise that is going around. What is the issue? What is the focus of this issue? Before it used to be medical treatment. Now, it’s legal. Now, it has turned into an issue against Secretary De Lima,” Valte said in her weekly media forum aired over government-run Radyo ng Bayan.
Valte recalled that Arroyo initially asked to be allowed to go abroad to seek medical treatment. She noted that the discussion later turned into Arroyo’s constitutional right to travel.
Valte defended De Lima, saying the justice secretary was merely responding when asked by a reporter about a text message claiming that Arroyo was planning to seek political asylum.
“Secretary De Lima mentioned it outright—that (the information) was unverified,” she recalled. “(She said) that a text message was circulating, but we try our best to verify whatever information (we come across).”
Valte added in Filipino: “So at that particular point, she was very categorical that those reports were unverified and they came from you (media). I know that it’s been going around in text messages. We’ll look into it.”
Elena Bautista-Horn, Arroyo’s spokesperson, earlier challenged De Lima to present proof of the former president’s supposed plan to request political asylum from a foreign country.
Horn said De Lima’s public accusation was “calculated to influence the Supreme Court on our petition to nullify the watch-list order [on Arroyo] because she knows fully well that [the government] will lose the case.”
Arroyo’s legal spokesperson, Raul Lambino, said: “P-Noy (Mr. Aquino) made a retarded offer to foot the bill for foreign doctors who will examine [Arroyo] in the country—now De Lima and the Palace henchmen have gone mad and wild in arguing their case in public.”
“The latest statement of De Lima is an admission and indubitable proof that the [Aquino administration] had politically harassed, insulted and maligned the Arroyos, and will keep them suffering with degrading and inhumane treatment.”
Some senators suggested that the Department of Justice expedite the filing of cases against Arroyo in court.
“What we would prefer is that the DOJ goes step-by-step in the process,” Valte said.
“At this point, we are already being accused of political persecution but, on one hand, you have also comments that we are too slow in prosecuting. At this point, we want to ensure that whatever cases are on the table will go through the proper processes, will go through due process, and that the rights of whoever are being accused of anything are protected.”
Valte said the Palace also preferred that whatever case would eventually be filed against Arroyo in court would be based purely on evidence. AP, Christian V. Esguerra
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.