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Immigration chief says Arroyos not mistreated

By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 01:57 PM November 16, 2011

MANILA, Philippines–The Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday said it was only following the directive of the Department of Justice (DOJ) when it did not allow former President Gloria Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel to leave the country on Tuesday night.

In a statement, BI Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said immigration officers at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) “had no choice” but to implement Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s directive that the watchlist order issued against the former First Couple should be implemented as it was still in effect.

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“Until such time that the watchlist order against them is lifted by the DOJ, we cannot allow them to leave,” David said.

David also said that lawyers for the Arroyos should have gone first to the DOJ to secure a lifting of the watchlist order right after the Supreme Court granted their petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

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He explained that in the absence of a written order from the DOJ lifting the watchlist, immigration officers at NAIA would not let the Arroyos board their flight to Singapore.

David stressed that under BI rules, a watchlist order can only be revoked upon order of the agency or official that requested or who authored it.

“In this case, it was the DOJ that issued the watchlist, thus only the DOJ can direct us to revoke it,” he said.

Lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson, cited the case of the former president’s son, Ang Galing Partylist Rep. Mikee Arroyo, whose lawyers followed procedures by obtaining an allow departure order (ADO) from the DOJ.

Earlier, a Quezon City judge granted the petition of the solon and his wife Angela, who are facing tax evasion cases, that they be allowed to go on temporary trip abroad despite the issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) against them.

Mangrobang also denied allegations that the Arroyos were mistreated by the immigration officers who stopped them from leaving.

The BI on Wednesday made public videos of the Arroyo entourage passing the immigration counters at NAIA without being blocked by anyone. The Arroyos, accompanied by MIAA officials, did not queue at the counters and were instead herded to dignitaries lounge.

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Mangrobang said the passports of the Arroyos were not confiscated but were temporarily held as part of immigration departure formalities.

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