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Lawmakers urge DOJ to file raps vs GMA

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Lawmakers urged Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday to immediately file a case against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Atty. Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, in court.

This, as reports said that the Arroyos may again try leaving the country on the strength of a court order favoring them.

It will be recalled that the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) for the implementation of the watch list order (WLO) and the hold departure order earlier issued by the DOJ against the Arroyo couple.

The TRO was sought by the Arroyos after the government rejected the former president’s request to seek treatment abroad for a rare hormonal disorder.

Despite the issuance of a TRO, Mrs. Arroyo and her husband were prevented from leaving the country Tuesday evening when they tried to board a flight for Singapore.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino said he supports Secretary De Lima for doing everything she can to prevent the Arroyos from leaving the country, including a possible legal showdown with the Supreme Court.

"De Lima is well within her rights to exhaust all legal and administrative remedies to uphold the interest of justice within the bounds of due process and human rights," he said.

Casino, however, said that the more prudent move would be for the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman to immediately file cases against the Arroyo couple in court.

The Arroyos are facing complaints of plunder and electoral sabotage but the cases have yet to be filed in court.

The Akbayan party-list assailed the High Tribunal decision as a "blatant... travesty of justice."

"Arroyo faces six counts of plunder and more than a dozen other cases before the Office of the Ombudsman and is under investigation for electoral sabotage by the Department of Justice and the Commission on Elections (Comelec)," said Akbayan spokesperson Risa Hontiveros in a statement.

"The justices who voted in favor of allowing GMA to leave abroad conveniently ignored this fact and want her to go scot-free despite all these pending cases," she added.

Hontiveros said that the SC decision "is virtually a parole certificate to Arroyo even prior to her arrest, conviction and detention."

"This decision (TRO) only reinforces the belief that GMA still enjoys tremendous influence. This is a huge disservice to justice," she said.

Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus said there is no compelling reason for the former president to leave and that Mrs. Arroyo's physical condition is hardly an emergency case.

"The extent of the crimes that they (Arroyos) have to answer for in the interest of justice and accountability far outweighs the supposed personal health risks that Filipino doctors and facilities can adequately address," said Ilagan.

She said it is now imperative for the DOJ to expedite the filing of charges against the former president.

"Otherwise, this legal fiasco provides an opportunity for one of Philippine history’s biggest plunderers to escape accountability, and no less than the Aquino administration will be held liable for this injustice," she said.

For his part, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio expressed suspicion on the alleged "haste" with which the former president had tried to leave the country.

"The bigger and more important issue here is justice and accountability. Arroyo must not leave the country so she could answer all the allegations hurled against her," he said.

Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, an ally of the Arroyos, on the other hand, said De Lima's defiance of the SC order sends a bad signal that the agency tasked to uphold justice is the very same wantonly violating it.

"This is a very bad indication as the DOJ that should be the protector and upholder of justice is the one that is going against it. What about other personalities who go against the administration? Will they do the same thing to them?" she said.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Majority Floor Leader and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo filed House Bill No. 5480, which seeks to grant authority to the DOJ Secretary, as head of the principal law agency of the government, to unequivocally issue Hold Departure Orders (HDOs), Watch List Orders (WLOs) and Allow Departure Orders (ADOs) in order to prevent any miscarriage of justice, protect national security, guard public safety, and ensure public health.

Quimbo, senior vice chairman of the House committee on justice, said his proposed law will now set aside any doubt on the power of the DOJ Secretary to issue HDOs, particularly against respondents whose cases are not yet filed with the regular courts but are still going through preliminary investigation.

"A case was filed by the former president before the SC last week precisely questioning the constitutional basis of the power of the DOJ Secretary to issue HDOs on the basis of a mere department order. There is currently no measure that has been passed by Congress expressly giving the Secretary of the DOJ this power. This measure will now provide it," he said.

"It is important that the DOJ Secretary is given this express power to prevent any miscarriage of justice. With this measure, an accused in a preliminary investigation will no longer be able to escape justice by simply leaving the country," he added.

By Lilybeth G. Ison-PNA




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