Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s attempts to escape justice and frustrate efforts to prosecute her is in plain view that nobody could have missed it. The minute she steps out of the country, the quest for justice will almost certainly fall apart. She will most probably wait it out till the political atmosphere and conditions are more conducive or accommodating to her political rehabilitation while she is “recuperating” or dodging imagined “political persecution.”
Amidst the competing views and the complex legal and political implications surrounding the issue, it is sad that prudence took the back seat. The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was seen by not a few as having been issued with rather undue and unusual haste even as there is no compelling urgency for it. Oral arguments and studied contemplation should have been done first. Arroyo’s health condition is, fortunately, not life threatening.
While the Arroyos cry that their rights are being violated, the speedy issuance of the TRO has made some sectors of our society squirm in astonishment. It does not help any that there are pervasive perceptions that the results appear to hew to clear partisan lines. It could be seen as giving a relief that is precisely the meat of the petition and may in fact result in irreparable injustice that can not be undone, to the utter disadvantage of the Filipino people and their interest in making high public officials really accountable and that impunity must stop, once and for all. There also is an apparent double standard with which the cases of privileged litigants with power and influence, like the Arroyos, are being treated.
The situation must be put into perspective. Needless to say, the surrounding facts and circumstances show that Arroyo is abusing the right to travel as a plausible ruse to escape accountability for the grave crimes she allegedly committed of which there is strong evidence. Even the “devil can quote the Scriptures,” so to speak.
But the law should not be taken in abstraction; instead it must be applied in a concrete legal and political situation, with the dispensation of justice as the overriding goal. As has been said before, “general propositions do not decide specific cases.”
Ironically, it bears noting that DOJ Department Circular 41 was issued during Arroyo’s time. It is downright odd and curious that she and her allies cry justice and due process now that things have turned and they are on the other receiving end. She and the former First Gentleman must come to court with clean hands. They must also drop the tasteless “persecution complex” and poor victim stunt.
We support all efforts to exhaust all possible remedies to stop attempts of the Arroyos to flee. Too many tyrants, here and abroad, have tried to escape accountability through the hospital door. For history not to repeat itself, we should be vigilant as the events that surely have long term effects on our nation unfold before our eyes. We can argue how many angels can dance on a head of pin but at the end of the day, the issue all boils down to accountability of our public officials. Can we really get justice?
Had President Aquino accompanied the rhetoric and blame game with prompt and concrete legal actions in prosecuting the Arroyos as part of its campaign against corruption, it would not have come to this high drama. While the Arroyos are rushing to leave the country, Pnoy was twiddling his fingers in decisively filing cases in court against them not only for big time corruption and unmitigated plunder but also for the most heinous violations of basic human rights.
(Editor’s Note: We’ve decided to use this statement released by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) through Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General in light of a brewing controversy between the validity of the watch list powers of the Department of Justice and the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court over the attempt of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the Philippines.)
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