Admin solons urge DoJ to settle hold departure order vs GMA

November 8, 2011 11:14 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Nov. 8 — Administration lawmakers on Tuesday urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) to come up with a decision whether to allow former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to travel abroad to seek medical treatment.

House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, at the Ugnayan sa Batasan forum, said that DoJ Secretary Leila de Lima should decide on whether to allow the former president to travel and not give back to President Benigno S. Aquino III the matter.

"There are two contending views with regard to this issue — the Department Order 41 and the constitutional provision with regard to the right to travel," said Tanada. "Ang nagiging problema lang talaga sa kasong ito ay may mga issues na kailangang harapin ng dating pangulo kung saan may interest din ang taong bayan at pumapasok diyan ang maraming pag-uusap kung si (dating) pangulong Arroyo ay babalik, sinserong babalik o hindi babalik."

"There are cases pending against the former president and if these cases are filed and she's not here, the wheels of justice will not turn. Now, if they (cases) are filed and she's arraigned, an accused is allowed to not attend her trial and at the same time may be allowed to seek medical attention maybe abroad, but it is in her own lookout that she should be aware of the case that is running in the Philippines," he said.

Tanada said it was also good that lawyers of the former president filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop implementation of the watchlist order issued against Mrs. Arroyo by the DoJ due to her alleged involvement in the fraud committed in the 2007 election.

In her 41-page petition, Mrs. Arroyo, through her lawyers, led by Estelito Mendoza, said her constitutional right to travel had been violated by the watchlist order.

She also urged the High Tribunal to nullify DoJ Circular 41 that gives the DoJ Secretary the authority to order the inclusion of an individual in the immigration watchlist.

"Department Circular 41 issued by the DoJ which is not a law enacted by Congress restricts the right to travel, is, on its face, void for being in violation of the Constitution," said the former president in her petition.

Despite their question on the validity of the Circular, Mrs. Arroyo said she complied with the DoJ’s request that she submit additional document to support her plea that an Allow Departure Order (ADO) be issued so that she could seek medical treatment abroad.

Among the documents submitted include her sworn letter-application with an assurance that after her medical treatment, she will return to the Philippines; certified true copy of her travel authority from Congress; her medical abstract and her tentative itinerary including her pending request to doctors from the University of Alcorcon in Spain, her consultation in Singapore, and doctors from the University of Aachen in Germany.

"The inability of petitioner GMA to leave for abroad to alleviate or at least, prevent the aggravation of her hypoparathyroidism and metabolic bone disorder has given rise to the danger that the said conditions afflicting petitioner GMA may become permanent and incurable… The matter is of extreme urgency and petitioner GMA will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury if the enforcement and implementation of the (watchlist order) are not restrained," the petition stated.

The former president suffered from severe attacks of pain due to chronic cervical spine defect and underwent several surgeries. She wants to seek medical experts’ opinion abroad after she was also diagnosed to be suffering from unexplained "hypoparathyroidism."

However, Marikina Rep. Romero Federico "Miro" Quimbo said that it was "premature" for the former president to file a petition before the SC questioning the legality of the DoJ to issue hold departure order and under watchlist order against her.

"While it is valid, there are also grounds upon which the former president may question it in court which is what they are doing right now, I think that it is yet premature kasi hindi pa final yung decision ng Department of Justice," he said.

Before filing a case, there should be specific controversy, said Quimbo. "Right now, DoJ has not made a final decision so there is really no order to be questioned at this point in time."

He, however, said that it was right for the DoJ to make a decision whether to allow the former president to seek medical treatment abroad.

"(There are) more than enough evidence for the DoJ Secretary to make the decision. Kapag ito ay iatas pa natin sa ating Pangulo, bagama't may karapatan ang ating Pangulo para gawin yon, hindi natin maiiwasan na baka mabahiran pa at maakusahan pa na pulitika ang pumapasok dito," he said.

De Lima earlier said she already had a decision on Mrs. Arroyo’s ADO request but she had to clear it first with the President before releasing it.

"This is not a political issue. This is a legal issue with solely the Department of Justice will have the authority to make the decision, at dapat desisyunan na," said Quimbo.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) earlier expressed support on the request of the former president that she be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.

"We call on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to act with haste and set aside the watchlist order imposed against former President Arroyo by virtue of humanitarian considerations," said NPC spokesman and Valenzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian in a statement.

"This matter which concerns the life and well-being of a former president has already surpassed the bounds of being just a mere political or even a legal issue," he said.

Gatchalian also pointed out that barring the former president to travel at this critical stage of her life would send a wrong message to the public.

"If anything bad happens to her at this point in time, God forbids, that would surely put the Justice Department in a bad light and that (wrong decision) would haunt it forever," he said.

Gatchalian also emphasized that the government should learn to trust the promise of the former president that she would return once the treatment on her is completed.

"Sometimes it takes trust to resolve even the most difficult of issues such as in the case of former president Arroyo," he said.

But for the Akbayan Party, it pointed out that the issue of Mrs. Arroyo’s treatment abroad has to be seen in the greater context of exacting accountability and ending impunity of high-level officials involved in grand-scale corruption, and the best case is for her to be treated in the country as investigations continue.

"We wish GMA to be well soon," said Akbayan Party spokesperson Risa Hontiveros.

Hontiveros, however, said that the former president's illness "should not prevent the Filipino people from calling the previous administration to account for grand-scale corruption and fraud; it should not stand in the way of justice." (PNA) RMA/LGI


One Response to “Admin solons urge DoJ to settle hold departure order vs GMA”

  1. Ina on November 16th, 2011 6:09 pm

    Sir PNoy, kung dito mamatay si dating PGMA dahil sa pag-antala ninyo sa karapatan niyang magpagamot sa ibang bansa, matatanim po sa isip ko na-overcome na ng inyong PREJUDICE ang kakayahan ninyong MAMUNO… At mas masahol pa kayo sa itinuturing ninyong diktador na si former president Marcos, dahil siya nga, pinayagan ang tatay ninyong magpagamot sa ibang bansa… Kayo naman, dahil sa ngalan ng “National Interest” ay nilapastangan ninyo ang karapatang pantao ng isang Filipino… Ang isinawalang-bahala ninyo ang kautusan ng SC.