Arroyo lawyers ask Supreme Court to declare DOJ-Comelec panel illegal
Lawyers on Monday asked the Supreme Court to act immediately on a petition to nullify as unconstitutional a special government panel that recommended the filing of election sabotage charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The urgent petition on behalf of Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative who is under hospital arrest, was filed by lawyers of her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.
Through his lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, Mike Arroyo reiterated his previous claim in a petition earlier this month that the creation of the joint Commission on Elections-Department of Justice (Comelec-DOJ) panel that investigated the alleged rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections diminished the independence of the poll body, which is mandated under the Constitution.
In a 12-page supplemental motion, Mike Arroyo said it was evident that the Comelec’s decision to charge his wife with the criminal offense punishable with life imprisonment was meant to neutralize the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) issued on November 15 against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for banning the travel abroad of the former First Couple.
“It is respectfully submitted that there is an urgent necessity to and there is no impediment in issuing a temporary restraining order immediately enjoining and restraining all respondents,” the petition said.
Named respondents were De Lima, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and members of the five-man Comelec-DOJ panel.
According to Mike Arroyo, the “unprecedented haste” with which Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112 ordered his wife’s arrest on Friday was apparently done “with an intentional resolve to defeat the force and effect” of the high court’s TRO.
Arroyo, 64, has said she is seeking urgent medical treatment for a rare bone disease, but the government says she is attempting to evade prosecution for alleged election sabotage and corruption.
“The previous apprehensions that the proceedings conducted by the joint committee are designed to rig and railroad the preliminary investigation… have now been proven true and real,” the petition said. It said that the Comelec en banc used the November 16 resolution of the Comelec-DOJ panel to hastily charge the former President, former Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol and former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. with election sabotage.
Because of the panel’s “unconstitutionality and unlawfulness,” the petition said all its acts “as well as all proceedings emanating and arising therefrom are equally null and void.”
While the panel absolved him of any complicity in the alleged poll irregularities, Mike Arroyo said its recommendation exposed him to “the same risk of unfair prosecution.”
He noted that the case was filed in the Pasay RTC on the day that the high tribunal threw out the DOJ’s appeal seeking to lift the TRO it had granted to the Arroyo couple.
“The joint committee, unlawful and unconstitutional as it is, has thus been successfully used by the respondents, for an unlawful purpose precisely sought to be prevented by the petition in this case,” Mike Arroyo said.
“It is settled jurisprudence that prohibition or injunction … will not lie to restrain or enjoin a criminal prosecution … such as a sham preliminary investigation hastily conducted.”
The Arroyo lawyers are set to faceoff in a legal showdown at the Supreme Court Tuesday as they debate the legality of the government’s travel ban against the former president.
Veteran lawyer Estelito Mendoza is expected to represent Arroyo during the 2 p.m. oral argument to be presided over by Chief Justice Renato Corona.
De Lima and Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz would lead the government side. “We’ve been meeting and closely coordinating,” De Lima told reporters.
Jose Midas Marquez, the Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson, said at least 14 justices would join the deliberations, which will be open to the public. Marquez said Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who is suffering from a heart ailment, would probably skip the hearing.
Abuse of discretion
The tribunal has told the lawyers to limit discussions on the main issues raised by the Arroyo couple in their separate petitions:
The individual’s right to travel as defined in Section 6 Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
The constitutionality of the DOJ Circular No. 41 which gave De Lima the authority to issue watch-list and hold-departure orders.
Grave abuse of discretion by De Lima.
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