Justice Secretary Leila de Lima turned down on Tuesday the request of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to travel abroad to seek treatment for a rare hormonal disorder.

“Her condition is not life threatening and will not result in irreparable damage based on the evaluation of Health Secretary (Enrique) Ona,” de Lima said at a press conference.

Aside from Ona’s evaluation, she said the medical abstract issued by Arroyo physicians Roberto Mirasol and Mario Ver was also used as a basis in denying the request for an allow departure order for the former president, who is now seconb district representative of Pampanga.

Malacanang said it supports the decision of de Lima. “We fully support the decision of Secretary de Lima,” deputy Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

De Lima met with President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday afternoon before proceeding to the Department of Justice to announce her decision at a press conference.

“An individual’s right to travel is not absolute, taken against the interest of the state that the process will be derailed because of the sudden absence of a respondent in a criminal case,” de Lima said.
“There is no immediate necessity for her (Arroyo) to leave,” she added.

De Lima added that the interest of the state for the criminal justice system to proceed smoothly has “more weight.”

She gave the following as reasons for thumbing down Arroyo’s request for an allow departure order – there is no compelling need for her to travel abroad; the five countries Arroyo said she plans to travel to do not have extradition treaties with the Philippines, and; Arroyo’s promise to return to the country is contingent on the completion the her medical treatment.

De Lima cited the changing list of countries mentioned by Arroyo in her request to travel.

Initially, Arroyo named Singapore, Germany and Spain – with which the Philippines has no extradition treaty. Then Oslo was included to the list, followed by the United States and Geneva, Switzerland. The most recent list again name Singapore, Germany and Spain.
“There lies the real risk,” De Lima said.

She also said that making Arroyo’s return incumbent on the progress of her treatment indicated her travel “will be indefinite. We cannot just allow them to flee beyond our reach.”

She added that if Arroyo’s situation was really life threatening, she should not have included Geneva, where she planned to attend a conference, in her itinerary.

“After three operations, she is well enough to attend a conference. If her situation is that bad, why go to several destinations?” de Lima asked.

Arroyo’s spokesperson, Elena Bautista-Horn, protested the decision saying although the former president has been sued for plunder and electoral fraud, no case has yet been filed in court.

“Nagdadagdag na sila nang nagdadagdag ng (They just added and added) requirements. We have already complied with requirements of (the DOJ) circular (issuing a watch list order against Arroyo),” she said.

But Arroyo’s husband shrugged off the DOJ decision. “It doesn’t matter. It’s anti climactic because former President Arroyo already filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the (watch list order) for being violative of her constitutional right to travel,” he said.

The former president’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, on Tuesday released pictures of Ms. Arroyo in a neck brace.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada said it was “hard to determine by pictures that Representative Arroyo is deteriorating. A picture can be deceiving. It is better to rely on the medical reports and what the doctors say. She still has a remedy by going to the SC to prove that her constitutional right to travel has been violated.”

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares accused Arroyo of “using her medical condition to go abroad when she can avail of these in the Philippines. Based on the track record of former President Arroyo, Bayan Muna suspects that she wants to avoid prosecution for plunder filed against her.”

However, he also said Arroyo would likely win if she questions the administration’s refusal to let her travel and stressed the best way to keep her here is to file charges against her in court.

“The issuance of a hold departure order is the wrong track since the right to travel cannot be impaired by the president absent a law or a court order,” he said. “The Supreme Court will most likely rule against President Aquino here.”

“Instead of violating the Constitution the government must rather uphold it by ensuring that former President Arroyo is made to account by filing cases against her,” he said.

I’m glad the government did not allow themselves to be played like a fool by the clever sicko antics of CGMA.

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