Editorial: Miles from conviction

On the night of Nov. 15, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) and her entourage were preparing to leave the country to seek medical treatment for her hypoparathyroidism and bone mineral disorder in four countries—Singapore, Germany, Spain and Italy. After persistent efforts to catch the last flight out to Singapore, PGMA was left with no choice but to go back to her suite at the St. Lukes’s Medical Center in Taguig, after being withheld by immigration officials as ordered by Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima issued a Watchlist Order against the Arroyos, even prior to the airport mayhem. But earlier of the same November day, the Supreme Court (SC) lifted the travel ban on the former president, who faces administrative and criminal suits for alleged electoral fraud and corruption. The SC voted 5-8, for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on PGMA’s travel ban.

Many are now questioning de Lima for her actions, especially her direct violation of the SC’s orders. Some have challenged her to accompany PGMA abroad, to cure the public’s anxiety as she keeps an eye on the ex-president and some have threatened her with contempt charges. Others also hailed her for her “balls” and political will.

Though amiable, de Lima’s actions nevertheless violated the decision of the SC.  She flexed too much muscle and exuded the image of an abusive and stubborn public official. Moreover, she demonstrated how an official could directly violate the decision of the judiciary, and worse, get away with it.

Nonetheless, the Filipinos should not discredit de Lima’s actions. It is high time that the Philippines witness a public official with that much political will in her system. Above all, despite her seemingly contemptuous disregard of the SC’s ruling, de Lima’s decision is based on natural law – what is right and what is wrong – and this is the same foundation where the country’s Constitution is based.

Moreover, the SC also lacked in conviction for lifting the travel ban since the reason for the lift was to solely preserve life, regardless of whose life it is – they did not consider that the Philippines has numerous bone specialists, according to the Philippine Medical Association, that could ease the treatment, financial expenses and recovery of the ex-president.

This mayhem would not reach a Constitutional crisis level had the government thought ahead and looked at the possibility of PGMA’s escape, or at least prepared for the numerous excuses her defense has lined up. The Department of Justice should have filed multiple cases against PGMA, immediately after she stepped down from the presidency. Although de Lima prevented the departure of the ex-president that November night, the administration failed to realize that PGMA just garnered more brownie points from the public, out of sympathy for her metal-braced five foot figure.

Worse, PGMA could blame the government if her condition worsens.

Though the police have served the arrest warrant for electoral sabotage to PGMA, prison is still far away from the former president, and although the government succeeded in restraining her to leave the Philippines, miles away from the safety of asylum, the former president is still miles away from being detained behind cold bars.

Under the law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Under the law, no one can be imprisoned unless he or she is convicted of a crime, and while PGMA is half way to prison, the fight is not yet over. Nine year’s worth of tragedies is difficult to assess and to convict.

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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