Infuriating as listening to lawyers Raul Lambino and Ferdinand Topacio wail about their poor oppressed clients Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Jose Miguel Arroyo is, they are fundamentally right.
The 1987 Constitution, that pesky litle document, does say the right to travel cannot be impaired “except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.” The Memorandum Circular giving Justice Secretary Leila De Lima the power to put the two of them on a travel watch list, although convenient for us, is not a law.
And although it’s true that the Aquino government will be courting riots if it lets Arroyo escape justice*, as lawyers like saying, that has no basis in logic or in law either. And unless the Arroyos suddenly gain the ability to turn into giant mecha-Arroyos, they do not pose much of a threat to national security. If Arroyo plans to go to Europe for an operation to give her that ability, maybe… Otherwise, though, as smarmy suspects like to say on police procedurals, charge them or let them go.
Sure, Arroyo is probably exaggerating the seriousness of her hyoparathyroidism and her condition can probably treated here as well as it can be abroad. Sure, she’s probably looking for a way out of the plunder and electoral sabotage complaints filed against her. Sure, we probably all want to slap that smug look off her face. But that is of no moment because the Constitution and our set of laws say we cannot keep her from leaving the country unless she’s actually facing a case in court.
“But she’s been charged with plunder/cheating/making deals with the devil/the apostasy of claiming to talk to God!,” you might say. And you would be right. But “charged,” in these cases, means accused of. That means people have accused her of all of those things, but that does not mean those complaints have been brought to court.
They are in that limbo called “preliminary investigation” that basically means the prosecutor (or fiscal, if you prefer) is still trying to find out if there is enough of a case to bring before a judge.
No matter what Attorney Topacio says, this is not Martial Law. And one of the things that the oligarchs put into the Constitution to prevent Martial Law-esque abuse is a limit to the power of the executive to do whatever it wants. Hold-Departure Orders, the actual and legal order to keep someone from leaving the country, can only be issued by a court.
The Watch List Order issued by the DOJ is, by requiring people on the list to ask permission before leaving, is a sort of freak hold-departure order that could mean the executive branch could keep you from leaving the country just because a complaint has been filed against you. And as we have learned through long years of watching celebrities do it to each other, anybody with money to spare can file a complaint even without basis.
Yes, we want to see the Arroyos behind bars (especially that Mikey, for looking and acting like a douchebag), but not like this. The Arroyos are innocent (except in out hearts) and deserve the same rights that everybody else enjoys even though we hate them. In the meantime, you can head over to the Other Website and look at borderline funny pictures of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo given the DPWH treatment. If nothing else, it will keep your rage going.
*”Justice”, in this case, meaning imprisonment.
(Thx, Indolent reader FreeSince09)