MANILA — The decision on whether to let Gloria Macapagal Arroyo travel abroad or not now rests on the Supreme Court.
The former President and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo have challenged the issuance of an order placing them under the Bureau of Immigration’s watch list before the Supreme Court.
It can be recalled that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued the order to prevent the couple from leaving the country in view of the criminal charges against them pending before the Department of Justice.
Mrs. Arroyo is facing three plunder and election sabotage charges filed against her but which are all still undergoing preliminary investigation.
Atty. Mike Arroyo has been under a watch list order following the election sabotage case filed by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for alleged rigging of the 2007 senatorial polls.
The Arroyos, in separate petitions before the Supreme Court, named as respondents De Lima, chief state counsel Ricardo Paras III, and Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr.
In their petitions, the Arroyos asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction against the implementation of the order. They said the DOJ circular and the Watch List Order (WLO) violate their constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty and to travel.
Mrs. Arroyo has obtained from the House leadership authority to travel to the United States, Singapore, Germany, Spain and Italy, covering the period October 22 to December 5 for medical treatment abroad for hypoparathyroidism and metabolic bone illness.
Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyers argue that since criminal complaints against his client are pending preliminary investigation at the DOJ, De Lima not only violated her right to travel but also ignored the principle that an accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Lawyers of Atty. Arroyo, meanwhile, argue that the basis for the issuance of the WLO on him was an affidavit executed by detained former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan who apparently heard it from his father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
Not only because it is full of Arroyo-appointed justices but the Supreme Court appears to be inclined to decide on the former President’s favor. This is based on jurisprudence.
IF the government filed in court the six plunder cases it says it had built against Arroyo, there would be hardly any trouble regarding her reported plan to seek medical treatment abroad.
None of the six criminal charges have been brought before the Office of the Ombudsman. And in the eyes of the law, unless charges have been filed in a court, there is no justification for a person to be in the watch list.
There is no danger of flight because the alleged gravity of the offenses has not been established yet.
What is happening is that the government is perceived to be prosecuting a very sick former woman president.