De Lima Should Come To Court With Clean Hands

by Joseph G. Lariosa

The tense atmosphere that pervaded in Manila last week has all the stuff that people power 3 was made off. Thankfully, by some quirks of events, the brewing constitutional crisis between the judiciary and executive branches was defused when the Commission on Election and the Department of Justice filed the election sabotage charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

When the Filipino people did not go to Ninoy Aquino International Airport to bar Rep. Arroyo from leaving for her medical treatment abroad and bought time to let political apparatus takes its course, it was a sign of the maturity of the political system in the Philippines.

Let’s face it. If the DOJ-Comelec did not file the criminal charges against Arroyo, the war of words between the DOJ and the Supreme Court would have escalated. It would have prompted the people to spill into the street and to proceed to NAIA to prevent the departure of Mrs. Arroyo and her husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

The people would be there to handle the matter had the Arroyos insisted on leaving as disagreement between the two branches of government was leading into a full-blown crisis.


The scenario would have replicated the events in Thailand three years ago when the People’s Alliance for Democracy or the Yellow Shirts invaded the two ends of the road in front of the terminal building of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok and blockaded the road to the airport and overpowered hundreds of policemen in full riot gear, cancelling flights and leaving thousands of travelers in the airport as they protested corruption of the Thai government.

When the government called on the Royal Thai Army to restore order at the airport, the Army did not follow orders, like the Philippine military, who called for people’s support in EDSA in 1986 and 2000.

Although, the judiciary branch is believed to the weakest among the three separate branches of government because it doesn’t have the military or police at its disposal like the executive has nor the money that the legislative allocates, in the Thai situation, it was the Court that dissolved the government, which could not do anything when the Army did not follow the government’s order to disperse the occupants of the airport. And the people, who seized the airport, gained the respect of the majority of the Thai people because they conducted the protest in a peaceful way like the People Power I and People Power II in the Philippines.


Now this is my take on the possible ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court next week (Nov. 29) on the pending motion to hold DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima in contempt for not following the order of the Supreme Court when she did not let Mrs. Arroyo and her husband leave for medical treatment after the Court issued Temporary Restraining Order on De Lima’s watch list order (WLO).

If the SC majority would listens to the dissenting vote of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who said Secretary De Lima did not violate the TRO because Arroyo failed to comply with one of the requirements needed for the TRO become effective, then Ms. De Lima will be off the hook of the contempt charges. Mrs. Arroyo failed to appoint a lawyer to receive subpoena in her absence.

But even if she wins on the TRO, I suggest that Secretary De Lima should be more proactive by telling the Court that she made the mistake of upholding the WLO and the hold departure order (HDO) of the DOJ in the Circular No. 41 that was adopted by former President Arroyo after she learned during last week’s Hig Court hearing that Arroyo used the WLO and the HDO to conveniently harass and intimidate some of her 6,000 political opponents.

De Lima can even tell the High Court that she is going to revoke the WLO and HDO and cede these powers back to the Court because these orders are really encroaching on the judiciary’s power to issue warrants.

If not, Attorney De Lima will be coming to court with unclean hands if she wants the court to rule in her favor upholding her WLO’s on Mr. & Mrs. Arroyo and still keep the power to order such WLO for such act will be having a cake and eating it too.


Matapos mong makinabang sa isang administrative order na nalaman mong nagamit pala sa pang-aapi, itutuloy mo ba pang gamitin itong instrumento sa pang-aapi sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatuloy na pagamit nito ng mga tauhan mo sa inyong administrasyon? Hindi ba ang isang pagkakamali ay hindi puedeng matuwid ng isa pang pagkakamali? Asan ang Tuwid Na Daan diyan?

(After benefitting from this administrative order that you belatedly learned was used to harass people, will you still use this same instrument to let your subordinates use this to harass people under your watch? Isn’t it that a mistake cannot be corrected by another mistake? What happened to the Straight-Path Doctrine?)

The last time I checked accepting a mistake and avoiding the same is still a virtue.

I just hope the court will deny the petition to nullify the filing of a criminal case against Mrs. Arroyo and her husband, Mr. Arroyo, who told the SC that “all the acts so far performed by Respondent Joint Committee, as well as all proceedings emanating and arising there from, including the Resolution of the Comelec en banc authorizing the filing of information for electoral sabotage, as well as the said information themselves be declared null and void and without any legal effect whatsoever.”Otherwise, it will give the appearance that Sec. De Lima filed the criminal case, along with the Comelec, as a cover for her issuance of a WLO. I hope not.

As I said the political system in the Philippines was at its finest last week when the executive branch triumphed in barring Mrs. Arroyo from leaving while the judiciary ruled against owners of Luisita Hacienda piercing the heart of President Noynoy. But the latter ruling also brought happiness to hundreds of sugar cane beneficiary tenants. See, how politics has done wonders! (

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