DOJ presses its case before SC

Purple S. Romero

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DOJ maintains its authority to bar citizens from traveling when they are under investigation

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice said the Supreme Court should not strip the former of its authority to bar subjects of preliminary investigation from leaving the country because the one asking for it – former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – had used the same power against “thousands of Filipinos” under her administration.

In its memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court on January 4, the DOJ, represented by Solicitor General Jose Cadiz, said the DOJ, under Arroyo’s nine-year-term from 2001-2010, issued 5,194 watch list orders and 536 hold departure orders.

Arroyo and her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel, have been the subjects of similar watch list orders. DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima barred the two from leaving the country in 2011 because they were facing preliminary investigation for their alleged roles in the reported poll fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Mrs Arroyo, who is now Pampanga representative, sought clearance from the DOJ to go abroad for a medical treatment (Arroyo has undergone surgery thrice in 2011) –  but her request was denied. 

The Arroyo couple have asked the SC in separate petitions in November to nullify the watch list orders issued by the DOJ against them in August and November, respectively. They also asked the Court to declare as unconstitutional DOJ Circular No.41, which grants the DOJ secretary the authority to issue watch list orders.

The DOJ argued that if the assailed authority has indeed violated the right to travel of Filipino citizens , then Arroyo had a hand in it. 

“It is respectfully submitted that the Honorable Court should not afford judicial relief to a person with unclean hands such as petitioner GMA,” the DOJ said. 

The DOJ added that Arroyo herself has recognized the validity of the DOJ’s authority to issue watch list orders when she requested an allow departure order – a relief provided in DOJ Circular No.41 – thrice in October 2011. 

Moot and academic 

The DOJ said that questions over the constitutionality of the watch list orders issued  against the Arroyo couple have also become moot and academic.

The DOJ said in its memorandum that the watch list order against Arroyo issued first in August and extended in September was lifted on Nov.14, 2011. The watch list order issued against her on Oct.27, on the other hand, was rendered moot by the filing of an electoral sabotage case against her by the Commission on Elections on Nov.18. The Pasay regional trial court issued a warrant of arrest against Rep. Arroyo, thus preventing her from leaving the country.

“Consequently, any restriction on petitioner GMA’s right to travel at present is due to her arrest by authority of a competent court and no longer on account of the implementation of WLO No. 2011-573 dated October 27,  2011 or DOJ Circular No.41,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ added that the watch list order issued against Mr. Arroyo, issued on Nov.14, was lifted on Nov.21. –

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