Airport, airline execs: We can’t prevent passengers from boarding
Some ranking airport and airline officials said they detected harassment and “creeping martial law” in the directive of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to airline companies not to allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband to leave the country.
In Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 15-11 issued and signed by CAAP director general Ramon Gutierrez on Wednesday, all aircraft owners and operators were asked to help implement the watch-list order on the former First Couple.
The document stated that the CAAP, in compliance with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s “letter-request” dated November 15, was “requesting the utmost cooperation of all concerned.” It was issued to all airline companies in the country through the Airline Operators Council led by Ma. Lourdes Reyes.
Asked if the MC was intended to oblige airline operators to report or convey to authorities information on the Arroyos’ presence at the airport, Gutierrez said: “We enjoin their assistance and cooperation to report such by virtue of the watch-list order in effect until such is reversed or revoked.”
But Reyes said airline operators could not be compelled by the CAAP to prevent anyone from boarding their flights and leaving the country.
“Although as Filipino citizens we felt that we are duty-bound to cooperate, we cannot [prevent] passengers [from boarding] their flights for as long as they have the proper and complete travel documents,” she said. “It is also against company policy to divulge passenger information.”
Reyes pointed out that there was a confidentiality agreement between passengers and airline companies.
Another airline official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the CAAP’s directive was a form of harassment. “What will they do to us if we don’t go by their whim?” he said.
An airport official who also sought anonymity said the CAAP was being “politicized.” Tina G. Santos