SC nullifies De Lima circular giving DOJ power to issue HDO
The Supreme Court on Tuesday nullified a Department of Justice (DOJ) circular which was used by then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to stop former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from going out of the country.
During the en banc session, high court magistrates unanimously voted to declare as void DOJ Circular No. 41 allowing a Justice Secretary to stop suspects subject to DOJ investigation from traveling abroad.
The DOJ circular noted that the circular from the Supreme Court allowing the Regional Trial Courts to issue hold departure orders (HDO) is silent on cases falling below the jurisdiction of the RTC or those subject of investigation by the government prosecution offices.
“Apart from the courts, the Secretary of Justice as head of the principal law agency of the government mandated to, inter alia, investigate the commission of crimes, prosecute offenders, and provide immigration regulatory services, is in the best position to institute measures to prevent any miscarriage of justice, without, however, sacrificing the individual’s right to travel,” read the circular issued in 2010.
In 2011, the high court issued a restraining order against the implementation of the circular, but despite the TRO, De Lima still stopped the wheelchair-bound Arroyo from going out of the country.
The high court conducted an oral argument on the case where De Lima insisted that the authority to issue hold departure orders against individuals facing criminal investigation was an “inherent power” of the government as embodied in Executive Order No. 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987.
The high court magistrates, however, expressed concern about the circular that places an individual under the HDO without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves. /je