MANILA, Philippines - Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo filed with the Supreme Court(SC) today a petition for certiorari and prohibition that seeks the nullification and setting aside of watch list orders(WLO) issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against her which effectively bar her from traveling abroad without prior permission from the Secretary of Justice.
The 40-page petition, which also assailed Department Circular (DC) No. 41 which grants the DOJ the authority to issue WLOs and hold departure orders(HDO), prayed for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order(TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction.
DC No. 41 was issued, ironically, during the term of Mrs. Arroyo as chief executive.
In questioning WLO dated August 9, 2011, amended WLO dated September 6, 2011, and WLO dated October 27, 2011, Mrs. Arroyo alleged that the DOJ violated her right to travel which, she argued, is enshrined in the Constitution, specifically in Sections 1 and 6 of the Bill of Rights.
"Under the above provisions of the Constitution, in a language that is explicit and prohibitory, the 'right to travel' of a person shall not be impaired except 'in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may [be] provided by law," the petition read.
Mrs. Arroyo accused Justice Secretary Leila De Lima of ordering her inclusion in the immigration watch list "in aid of her(De Lima) prosecutorial authority" and "not in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health."
Mrs. Arroyo stressed that the justice chief's prosecutorial authority does not include the impairment of the right to travel even during the pendency of preliminary investigation proceedings.
The first assailed WLO, dated August 9, 2011 was issued on the basis of 3 plunder cases filed against Mrs. Arroyo at the DOJ. This WLO was amended in a subsequent order dated September 6 due to corrections on Mrs. Arroyo's full name as indicated in the August 9 order. The 3rd assailed WLO, dated October 27 was issued due to the filing of 2 separate complaints for electoral sabotage against Mrs. Arroyo and several others in connection with alleged massive vote-rigging in the 2007 midterm elections.
In her petition, Mrs. Arroyo stressed that she is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
"She(De Lima) has disregarded that even after an information is filed, the right to travel of the accused may be impaired or limited only by the court having jurisdiction over the person of the accused -- not by the Secretary of Justice or any of her prosecutorial surrogates," the petition read.
Mrs. Arroyo also pointed out that the right to travel is recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) to which the Philippines is a signatory.
The petition stated that due to the inaction of the DOJ on her pending application for an allow departure order(WDO) to seek further medical consultations and treatment abroad, confirmed appointments with doctors at the Mt. Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for October 24 and October 31 were cancelled. Re-scheduled appointments for November 4 and November 8 were similarly cancelled, the petition noted.
Mrs. Arroyo told the high court that though DC No. 4 is "on its face a violation of Section 1 and 6, Article III of the Constitution," she opted to "indulge" the justice chief and formally requested that she be allowed to leave the country.
"It is petitioner GMA's(Arroyo) desire to consult with medical experts of her choice and to receive specialized care and medical attention from other institutions. Having been immobilized by a debilitating condition for the last few months, and having been subject to long operations and their complications, she seeks other experts' perspective and to receive optimum care to ensure that she will not be disabled for the rest of her life and that her recovery will no longer be impeded by complications, which she has unfortunately experienced for the last few months," the petition read.
Mrs. Arroyo underwent surgery for cervical radiculopathy on July 29. She underwent a second surgery on August 10 because titanium implants in her spine were dislodged. On August 24, a 3rd surgery was conducted for replacement of her original implants.
On October 1, Mrs. Arroyo was diagnosed to be suffering from metabolic bone disease and osteoporosis due to hypoparathyroidism with electrolyte imbalance and Vitamin D deficiency.
Travel Authority granted her by the House of Representatives indicate her desire to travel to Singapore, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States.