Dominican Republic FM says Arroyo not seeking asylum


Posted at Nov 12 2011 01:00 PM | Updated as of Nov 13 2011 06:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The foreign minister of the Dominican Republic has denied reports from Philippine officials that former President Gloria Arroyo sought political asylum there.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso said the Carribean nation has not received an application for asylum from Arroyo.

Arroyo, who is facing several cases of plunder and electoral sabotage, both non-bailable charges, was barred by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to seek medical treatment for a rare bone disease abroad.

De Lima said this week she was verifying reports that Arroyo had asked for political asylum in the Dominican Republic.

In denying Arroyo's request to travel, de Lima earlier said there was no "compelling or immediate necessity" that would justify granting the request. She also cited the primacy of national interest over individual rights.

De Lima was concerned that Arroyo planned to seek treatment in countries that had no extradition treaties with the Philippines.Before de Lima thumbed down Arroyo's request, the former President asked the Supreme Court to allow her to travel overseas for medical purposes and to nullify a watch list order issued by the DOJ against her.

Her husband, Mike Arroyo, also filed for and was granted a temporary restraining order on his inclusion in the immigration bureau's watch list in connection to the anomalous sale of second-hand helicopters to the Philippine National Police in 2009.

Right to travel

President Aquino has backed the travel ban against Arroyo, saying it is for the greater interest of the country, and that the former President and now Pampanga representative needs to face the charges against her.

Aquino said Arroyo could not be tried "in absentia" if the DOJ decides there was probable cause to file electoral sabotage and plunder cases against her. "If she decides not to return, how can we make her return?" he asked.

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, in an interview over dzMM on Saturday, also supports the decision disallowing Arroyo to travel.

Ocampo, who was also at the receiving end of an "illegal" watch list order during Arroyo's time, said: "Sa panig namin noon, gawa-gawang mga kaso lang ito, na-dismiss iyong mga kaso. Iyong kay Gloria (Arroyo) totohanang kaso iyan. Nung panahon ni Gloria, political persecution samin iyong ginamit nila na watch list order."

But Sen. Miriam Santiago, a constitutionalist, said Arroyo could be barred from leaving only if her flight would be "a threat to national security, public safety and public health."

"Kaya dapat patunayan ng Solicitor Genereal sa Korte Suprema sa hearing nila na kung papaalisin si Pangulong Arroyo, magkakaroon ng panganib sa national security," she said. - With a report from dzMM