Monday summit brings together squabbling leaders

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s first national criminal justice summit this morning brings together officials from the executive and judiciary caught in a legal and political tussle over former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo will be opening the summit at the Manila Hotel, followed by a message from Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Corona and majority of the Supreme Court justices had asked De Lima to explain why she should not be held in contempt for not following the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Court issued last Nov. 15. The TRO ordered the justice department and the immigration bureau to take Mrs. Arroyo out of its hold-departure list and allow her to leave the country for medical treatment.

Robredo, on the other hand, is in charge of the overall preparations for the planned transfer of the former president from the posh St. Lukes hospital in Makati to the Veterans Medical Center in Quezon City, where she will be held under hospital arrest.

The Pasay regional trial court that ordered her transfer is scheduled this morning to hear the petition of the Arroyo camp seeking for an extended stay at St. Lukes.

But the moment that is keenly awaited at today’s summit is the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III, who is scheduled to deliver the keynote at 10.45 a.m., an hour after Corona’s speech.

Only last Thursday, Dec. 1, speaking before the Philippines’ top businessmen, the President slammed the Supreme Court for what he described as the “current air of judicial uncertainty.”

The President cited the cases where the High Court under Corona flipped-flopped on a decision, and the “speedy relief” it provided to the petition for a TRO made by former President Arroyo, who appointed Corona.

The Arroyo camp had questioned before the SC the legality of the arrest warrant issued by the Pasay court against Mrs. Arroyo. Should the High Tribunal vote in her favor, the Palace is expected to flex its political muscle against the Court.

Also speaking at today’s summit are Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., SC Associate Justice Roberto Abad, and Bureau of Corrections director retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan.

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