Yesterday, November 15, 2011, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would prevent the Department of Justice in enforcing its watch list order (WLO) against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The ruling included three conditions, to wit: (1) Payment in cash of a P2 million cash bond; (2) The appointment of legal representatives, who will receive all legal documents including subpoenas; and (3) Report in person or call the Philippine embassy or consulate office in countries where the Arroyos will travel.
In a statement made to the press, the former First Gentleman, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo said that the Supreme Court ruling was a “triumph of justice.” But the Akbayan Party thinks otherwise. The party’s spokesperson, Risa Hontiveros, condemned the TRO as “a huge disservice to justice” and “a parole before a conviction.”
“The Great Escape” foiled
As soon as the news of the ruling was announced, Gloria posted the P2-million cash bond and made bookings for Singapore at 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 7:35 pm, 7:55 pm and 9:00 pm. When the Arroyos did not show up, the flights, which were booked with Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines, were canceled.
But at 8:00 pm the Arroyos arrived at the Ninoy International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 through an ambulance. They were going to take an 8:50 pm flight bound for Hong Kong via Dragon Air when they were barred from entering the gate at NAIA.
In justifying the government’s action in blocking the Arroyos at the airport, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the watch list order (WLO) “will stay until the government receives a copy of the decision of the SC.” She also said that the TRO could not be implemented until the Supreme Court “decides on the appeal that the Office of the Solicitor General will file upon receipt of the ruling.”
Mockery of justice
Sad to say, the ripple effect of the TRO is that it sets a precedent that any Filipino who is facing criminal charges but has not yet been formally arraigned in court can leave the country at will. Indeed, the ruling made the Philippine justice system virtually inutile.
The question is: Why did the Supreme Court allow Gloria to travel considering that preliminary investigation is ongoing on six plunder charges and one electoral sabotage case against Gloria? One can argue that Filipino citizens have an “absolute” constitutional right to travel. But the Supreme Court had set legal precedents that the right to travel is not absolute.
In his Inquirer column last November 10, Raul Pangalangan, former Dean of the UP College of Law, said: “To start with, the Supreme Court itself has ruled that the right to travel is not absolute. The Court has upheld the power of the Presidential Commission on Good Government to issue hold-departure orders against ‘persons [who are] known or suspected to be involved’ as Marcos cronies. Yet that power was not explicitly granted in the PCGG’s charter, and was merely implied from its power ‘to conduct investigation[s]’ and ‘restrain any [act] that may render moot and academic, or frustrate or otherwise make ineffectual [its] efforts.’
“In another case, the Court also upheld the power of the secretary of labor to issue a deployment ban. The power to regulate the exit of our migrant workers is encompassing, to the chagrin of legitimate OFWs who simply want to earn an honest living, including overseas Filipino professionals who are harassed at the airport with queues and inutile paperwork each time they visit family. Yet the Court, citing ‘public safety,’ has upheld the DOLE’s powers.
“There is an impression held by many (including myself initially) that these departure restrictions may be issued only by courts. Not so, as both cases demonstrate. Both departure constraints were issued merely by executive agencies, not by courts. Neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court requires a judicially issued order.”
Given these legal precedents set by the Supreme Court, the question is: Why did the Supreme Court turn a blind eye to these legal precedents and take exception of Gloria?
For one thing, the Supreme Court is stacked with 12 Arroyo appointees, nine of who are perceived to be rabidly loyal to her, including the “midnight” Chief Justice, Renato Corona. Known as “Arroyo Court,” it has consistently issued rulings that were favorable to Gloria and her allies. With the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, a loyal ally of the Arroyos and Gloria’s “line of first defense,” the high court is her “court of last defense.” And the recent ruling seems to manifest that.
In my article, “Would Gloria come back?” (October 19, 2011), I wrote: “I usually take conspiracy theories with a grain of salt. But there is one conspiracy theory that keeps crossing my mind since the May 10, 2010 presidential election. About two weeks before the election, ‘Aquinorroyo’ started buzzing around in Manila. I ignored it and accepted the results of the elections hook, line, and sinker. ‘No way it could have happened,’ I told my source.
“But on June 3, 2010, at a ‘People’s Congress’ convened by the Solidarity for Sovereignty at the Club Filipino, the lead convenor, Ma. Linda Olaguer-Montayre, in her opening remarks, said: ‘We have been told that prior to the elections the big personalities of the eco-political-media and academic elite in our country persuaded presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino to agree to an arrangement with Gloria Arroyo to forestall or obviate any further possible chaos or trouble in connection with the coming electoral exercise.’
“According to Olaguer-Montayre, a large amount of money was paid on behalf of Aquino and the Liberal Party to certain personalities who were going to insure that Aquino would win the election. Translation: Aquino would not be cheated.
“But what was in it for Gloria when she was not even running for president? One possible explanation could be that the ‘Aquinorroyo’ agreement was made to guarantee that the Arroyos would not be prosecuted by the Aquino administration. And given that until now the Aquino administration has not yet filed a single case against Gloria gives some credence to the ‘Aquinorroyo’ conspiracy theory. I find it hard to believe that P-Noy would enter into a secret agreement with the Arroyos. It simply doesn’t reflect in his character as an honest person. But yet… but yet… it seems that things are moving in that direction.”
Is “Aquinorroyo” real?
Romulus Jove Beltran, a Facebook blogger, said it succinctly: “He [P-Noy] has had enough time to gather all the evidence he needs which is not so hard to do considering that they’re glaring. He’s not making sure of his case if you ask me… the slow pace is deliberate…! And now, Gloria is going to escape because the careful hunter prepared for the hunt much too long…”
Which makes one wonder what is preventing P-Noy from filing charges against Gloria in court? It looks like the “Aquinorroyo” conspiracy is real after all.