MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, Mike, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 at around 8:10 p.m. for a scheduled flight to Singapore.
Arroyo, wearing a neck brace and surgical mask, alighted from an ambulance at around 8:20 p.m. She was able to enter the NAIA lobby on a wheelchair.
Congressman Mikey Arroyo and Arroyo spokesperson Elena Bautista Horn were also at the airport.
It is not clear whether airport officials will be following orders from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to bar the Arroyo couple from leaving the country.
De Lima on Tuesday said the government will stop the Arroyo couple from leaving the country today despite a Supreme Court order stopping a government travel restraint against the Arroyos.
She said the executive branch has yet to receive a copy of the Supreme Court decision lifting a travel ban on the Arroyos.
In an interview on ANC, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Arroyos will be told that the watch list order is still in effect and that they cannot yet leave for abroad.
Lacierda said Major Vicente Guerzon Jr., Assistant General Manager for Security and Emergency Services received a letter from the Arroyo camp seeking access to the airport’s presidential lounge area.
He said they will be given the usual courtesies but would still not be allowed to leave the country. He alleged that the Arroyos were trying to get sympathy from the public and described the effort as "all drama."
Mr. Arroyo earlier said he and his wife intend to leave the country “as soon as we have complied with the requirements.”
Mr. Arroyo told ABS-CBN News that their first stop is Singapore, and then Germany, and then Spain.
Colleagues weigh in on issues
As this developed, his wife’s colleagues in the lower House weighed in on the Supreme Court’s restraining order on the Department of Justice’s decision to stop the Arroyos from leaving.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the administration should respect the restraining order. Belmonte granted the former leader a travel authority, which showed that she should be accompanied by her husband, a nurse and a security aide.
Belmonte said he denied requests to allow the inclusion of relievers and security for Mike.
Belmonte said the lower House is powerless to force Arroyo to return should she decide not to come back. Belmonte said he is prepared to grant reasonable extensions of the travel authority which is valid until December 5.
Belmonte, however, said he still believes that Arroyo will come back to face charges against her. “I personally believe it’s her best interest to come back. I believe flight can be easily be interpreted as admission of guilt.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, however, thinks the Arroyos won’t be able to leave soon enough. Colmenares said until the court order is served, the watch list stays.
“Di naman ganun kabilis pag-alis ni Ginang Arroyo, normal na sagot ng government bureaucracy, hintayin kopya ng desisyon. Until then watch list will continue,” he said.
Administration too slow
Colmenares and fellow Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño blamed the Aquino administration for acting slowly on the case of the Arroyos.
“Kaya tayo napunta sa kalagayang ito, is dahil masyadong mabagal pag-file ng kaso sa kanya," they said.
Colmenares was disappointed that the SC’s decision came quickly, since her condition isn’t life threatening anyway.
“I was expecting they will ask for more arguments, more submission not just because of the issue of constitutional rights.”
He said the only recourse for the government now is to file a case against the Arroyos.
He said if Arroyo doesn’t come back, an arrest warrant will be issued and the government can declare Arroyo a fugitive from justice. Her passport may also be cancelled.
Casiño said: “Sinabi na natin earlier makakakuha ng sampal si Pangulong Aquino sa SC. We’re equally, if not more disappointed, sa aksyon ng gobyernong Aquino. Na-avoid sana kung mabilis ang aksyon sa mga kaso na na-file namin nung nawala immunity ni pangulong Arroyo.”
Casiño, however, warned the administration against railroading the case. “Just like any citizen may karapatan si [Arroyo]. Di naman pwedeng madaliin dahil isang taon pinatulog, dapat dumaan sa tamang pruseso, “
Casiño hopes the former leader will come back to face her cases as she promised. Casiño was also disappointed that the court did not fix a date of return for Arroyo.
Arroyo ally, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, welcomed the decision of the court. Magsaysay said de Lima has made decisions that cannot be backed up by law.
Magsaysay thinks de Lima may just be doing what the administration wants.