SC holds oral arguments on WLO vs. Arroyo couple

November 22, 2011 10:47 pm 

MANILA, Nov. 22 — The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday conducted oral arguments on the legality of the watch list order (WLO) issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, former First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.

The former President was barred from leaving the country with the electoral sabotage case filed against her, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Atty. Lintang Bedol by the joint DOJ-Commission on Elections panel on November 18, 2011.

However, the former First Gentleman is now free to travel abroad as the DOJ earlier on Tuesday lifted the WLO it earlier issued against him and seven others.

Present during the oral arguments were SC Chief Justice Renato Corona, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano Del Castillo, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Jose Mendoza.

Associate Justice Arturo Brion is on-sick leave.

The oral arguments centered on the questions on the legality of Department Circular No. 41 of the DOJ authorizing the Justice Secretary to issue a WLO or a hold departure order (HDO) against an individual.

Those who stood as legal counsels for the petitioners Arroyos were Atty. Estelito Mendoza, Atty. Anacleto Diaz, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio and Atty. Joselito Lomangaya.

They argued that the DOJ Department Circular No. 41 is not even a law and is only an Administrative Order that can restrain the rights of the former President and the former First Gentleman to travel abroad.

They said that the 1987 Constitution has set the limitations on the right to travel such as if it involves national security.

They stressed that Department Circular No. 41 is violative of the Constitution.

Justice Carpio asked Diaz if a subpoena being issued by a prosecutor can be a basis to stop the travel abroad of a respondent such that compliance with a subpoena can be considered as “compulsory procedure.”

Carpio said that the respondent should first comply with the subpoena before he can be allowed to travel abroad.

However, Diaz said that although the respondent should comply with the subpoena, it does not prevent the travel abroad of a citizen because there are other legal remedies that can be imposed in case a respondent did not appear in the hearing called by the prosecutor.

Carpio said that although such remedy can be possible, it would be a big problem on how to run after the respondent if he is out of the country.

Justice Sereno cited that even before the implementation of Circular 41 during the term of DOJ Secretary Alberto Agra, there were other similar issuances of the DOJ.

She said that with the Circular 41, almost 6,000 individuals were placed under the WLO.

With such a situation, Sereno said, it is a big question on what is the difference of Mrs. Arroyo from the 6,000 individuals who experienced the restriction to travel abroad.

Sereno added that she is not convinced that the information cited by Diaz is sufficient to support his arguments.

Those who argued for the government were Solicitor General Jose Anselmo “Joel” Cadiz, DOJ Secretary Leila De lima and Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr.

In their comments, they all defended the legality and constitutionality of Department Circular No. 41. They maintained that the right to travel is not absolute.

The oral arguments lasted for about three hours. It will continue on Thursday for the side of the government. (PNA) DCT/scs/PTR/utb


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