Last Tuesday in a press conference at Malacanang Palace, President Aquino declared his approval of DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima’s decision to ban the travel of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. On his statement, he said he considered public interest over the request of the former leader, since she has cases filed and are under preliminary investigation. Should the government grant the request and CGMA decided not to come back, it will derail the proceedings of her cases which is not a good sign for the government’s efforts to correct the past mistakes of the previous administration. As a consolation PNoy offered the Arroyo camp to submit the names of the specialists needed and they will be invited and brought over to the country. He even offered to shoulder the medical expenses of the former president (which caught the ire of many).
With that statement, many legal experts gave their opinion as to the legality of this pronouncements. There are opinions that it is unconstitutional since Trial Courts are only allowed to give such order. But the DOJ Secretary is banking on the Department Circular 41 issued by former Sec. Alberto Agra during the term of GMA. With such circular the DOJ Secretary is given the right to held a person from leaving the country. But ironically the same group of people who instituted this circular are the same people questioning it’s legality over the Supreme Court.
Legally speaking it may really be unconstitutional to deprive a person of his/her choice of medical services here or abroad. But to me this is something more than just an issue about health but of credibility. The former President may have all her rights to choose her doctors or the hospital where she wants to be cured but the problem is the doubt of her coming back (and even the doubt of her being really ill) after being treated. Yes it may not be a relevant issue on her right to travel, but she is currently facing several cases which are on their preliminary investigation stage. Should the government allow her to travel and she decided not to come back, then it will derail the process of investigation and prosecution of her cases.
Had CGMA didn’t act like ‘the boy who cried wolf’ then, when she said she will not run for the presidency in 2004, I think people will give her some benefit of the doubt this time. But because of that incident in the past many are so adamant about her travel.
Personally I think what should follow after this issue is an amendment to the rules when it comes to travels of a person with pending cases. Should the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Arroyos and revoke the validity of DOJ Circular 41, the legislature should craft a law or some protocol that will somehow make it hard for the person under preliminary investigation to sought refuge in countries with no extradition treaty with our country. This is for the purpose of continued rolling of judicial process which will not happen if an ‘accused’ is already out in hiding. This should be a call to lawmakers to take at look at it as a way to strengthen our justice system and not just deem it as a political maneuvering and persecution.
“Credibility is like virginity. Once you lose it, you can never get it back.” – Anonymous
- Philippines bars ill Arroyo from treatment abroad (sfgate.com)
- Let those who are Free Live a Free Life. (akosijcmasajo.wordpress.com)
- Hold order against GMA rests on shaky grounds without court order (jasondeasis.wordpress.com)