Yesterday, our country witnessed a battle between two components of our democratic government system – the Executive and the Judiciary. When the former First Couple tried to leave the country yesterday bearing the Supreme Court’s TRO (temporary restraining order) against DOJ’s Watch List, Sec. Leila De Lima immediately went into action and barred their departure. It was a circus at its best! Throngs of media surrounded the hapless Former President as she entered the NAIA Terminal 1 riding in a wheelchair and clad with braces to keep her frame in shape. Despite all the hassle, in the end, her party had to concede to the adamant Bureau of Immigration officials and return to the hospital.
Former President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Mike Arroyo are being charged for various cases of plunder as well as cheating on the 2004 National Elections. Amid these charges, GMA contracted an illness in her cervical spine which prompted her party to seek medical treatment abroad after the failed operation by her doctors in St. Luke’s Hospital. But the DOJ headed by Sec. Leila De Lima and supported by the Office of the President will have none of that. They placed GMA and her husband under a Watch List Order and prevented them from leaving the country. Further, PNoy offered that the government would spend on bringing any specialist they so desire into the country just to prevent them from leaving.
Yet GMA’s party appealed to the Supreme Court for a ruling against the WLO (Watch List Order). Which, they successfully got yesterday. Majority of the Supreme Court justices, most of whom were appointees of GMA herself, ruled in favor of the TRO (
hmm..fishy?). It was released yesterday and armed with that, GMA’s party immediately went into the airport and demanded that they be allowed to travel via Dragon Air and leave the country.
What followed next was entire mayhem! Sec. De Lima insisted she hasn’t received a copy yet of the TRO and that she had instructed the Immigration officials as well as NAIA personnel to prevent GMA and her husband from leaving the country. They were under her direct orders. The Supreme Court ruling said that the TRO was in effect immediately, and any attempt to block it will result in contempt. But Sec. De Lima was not afraid of that. She further insisted that upon receiving the TRO, they are still entitled to file a motion for reconsideration.
But GMA is in a hurry. As per her lawyer, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, her appointment with the doctors in Singapore was today and she was trying to leave the country yesterday to allow her at least one more day of rest before the checkup. GMA’s party insisted that they had already complied with all the requirements of the TRO which is to (1) issue a bond of P2M; (2) have a legal counsel present in the Philippines; (3) report to the Philippine Consulate in every country they visit. They further insisted that GMA is not in any way going to evade the Philippine government. She’s merely seeking treatment.
The issue is a double-sided coin for the mass public. Who do we, normal citizens of the Philippines place our bet on? Whose side do we choose?
Are De Lima’s actions justifiable in not giving the Arroyo’s any room for escape? In not letting them out of the eye the government? Their actions leading to last night’s attempt to board a plane were all hazy and suggestive of a plan to escape. Initially, they petitioned to travel to countries where the Philippines has no extradition treaty. Second, their travel plans are all vague, fluid and hazy. Why can’t they communicate one single plan? Why can’t they mention who’s the doctor or hospital they’ll visit? Lastly, they were certainly in a hurry to use the TRO and get out of the country. Last night’s plans also brings in a shade of doubt to the Arroyo’s intentions. Why book 4 flights? Why go through Dragon Air when it will land in Hong Kong and when there was a Tiger Air flight directly going to Singapore? Even Atty. Topacio’s answer when Mike Enriquez asked him (during DZBB 11.16.11 broadcast) about this was questionable. He said that they missed the direct flights to Singapore so they were going via Hong Kong. But Mike had a point when he asked if that wouldn’t further aggravate GMA’s condition?
On the other hand, GMA did look frail and weak. She looked pitiful, crying in front of the camera because she was denied her flight. She looked stressed being harassed by throngs of media in her attempt to get in the airport. She didn’t look like the powerful woman she once was wearing all the braces to support her spine. She was pitiful. And indeed where would she run?
Yet I still support the government’s decision. Do not let GMA or Mike Arroyo leave the country. Who knows what they could do next? GMA may not escape, but Mike Arroyo? Besides, if Lacson was able to evade capture and was able to hide from our justice system, what more the Arroyo’s? And what if all the money they collected were just waiting for them in banks all around the world? Traveling to these countries to seek medical treatment may just be a ploy to get those funds and divest them. There are many possibilities if they are allowed to exit the country. And just as many possibilities to give them the medical treatment they desire so long as they remain within the four corners of the Philippines.
Besides, for someone who is accused of so many crimes including those which violates human rights, would the violation of her human right even be a question? I know we should not implement a tooth-for-a-tooth and eye-for-an-eye justice system but seeing all the injustices done during her term makes for an excuse for that. And the government is even being generous giving her the offer of bringing any doctor or specialist from around the world into the country just so she doesn’t leave. If I were her, I’d take that opportunity be it a bluff or otherwise.
Justice is justice. For all the trouble this is worth, I believe that GMA’s victims feel justice for what is happening to her.
- Philippines: Gloria Arroyo Stopped From Boarding Plane (socyberty.com)
- Philippine Court Allows Arroyo to Travel Abroad (abcnews.go.com)
- Former Filipino President Stopped From Leaving for Treatment (nytimes.com)
- [In the Web] Gloria Arroyo stopped a woman, with an illness and a case just like hers, from leaving the country for four year (dars0357.wordpress.com)
- Hold Departure (rojan88.wordpress.com)
- Philippine court allows Arroyo to travel abroad (seattletimes.nwsource.com)