MANILA, Philippines (Nov. 8, 2011) - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima thumbs down former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's multi-destiantion travel abroad as the Justice secretary notes that the GMA will be going to at least three countries with no extraditon treaty with the Philippines, her travel is of indefinite duration and aside from medical treatment the former President shall also attend international conferences in the US and Switzerland.
"There is no compelling reason or immediate necessity for the former president to seek medical treatment abroad," announced De Lima. The announcement came after De Lima's trip to Malacañang early today.
De Lima said that her decision was based on the findings of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who studied the medical abstract submitted by Mrs. Arroyo's doctors from St. Luke's Medical Center-Global City, Taguig.
The DOJ chief also cited the discrepancies between the documents submitted by Mrs. Arroyo's camp to the DOJ and the medical abstract issued by St. Luke's doctors, Roberto Mirasol and Mario Ver, who were both involved in the cervical spine operations of the former president August.
"There is even some discrepancy in the medical abstract as against what was indicated in the application of GMA on her supposed medical treatment," she said. "What is clear in the report of Health Secretary Ona, is that yes, what was life threatening was the operations conducted on her, but since then she has recuperated... She has been recuperating fairly well because of the treatment from local doctors, using local facilities."
De Lima's announcement was a sort of a repetition of her earlier statement last week. She had said that she needed more time to study the request of the former president.
She said that her two questions on the request of the former president were still not questioned despite her further study of travel application. The questions include: whether there was "life-threatening reason" for Mrs. Arroyo's medical treatment abroad and the possible irreversible effect on her condition if she was not allowed to consult specialists abroad.
Mrs. Arroyo and her husband, former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, earlier filed petitions before the Supreme Court, asking the nullification of the watchlist order issued by De Lima against them.
The Arroyo couple also questioned the legality of DOJ Circular No. 41, which gives the secretary of justice the authority to order the inclusion of an individual in the immigration watchlist.
"Department Circular No. 41 issued by the DOJ which is not a law enacted by Congress restricts the right to travel, is, on its face, void for being in violation of the Constitution," Mrs. Arroyo, who was represented by lawyer Estelito Mendoza, said in the petition.
Arroyo's camp said that because of the alleged "inaction" of the DOJ on her request, her confirmed appointments for October 24 and 31, November 4 and 8 with doctors at the Mt. Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore have been canceled.
"The inability of petitioner GMA to leave for abroad to alleviate or at least, prevent the aggravation of her hypoparathyroidism and metabolic bone disorder has given rise to the danger that the said conditions afflicting petitioner GMA may become permanent and incurable…The matter is of extreme urgency and petitioner GMA will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury if the enforcement and implementation of the [watchlist order] are not restrained," the petition said.
Answering the petition of the Arroyos, De Lima cited the possible dangers if the power of the DOJ secretary to issue watchlist and hold-departure orders are taken out.
She also mentioned that the circular was "the creation of the former [justice] secretary under GMA" and that it is exercised, without being petitioned, "all these years, by previous DOJ secretaries."
"You cannot imagine the dire consequence if that power is taken out," De Lima said.
During the press conference, De Lima expressed fear about the absence of extradition treaties in the countries that Mrs. Arroyo wishes to seek medical treatment.
"The countries of destination itself, I cannot avoid being concerned by the fact that there are no existing extradition treaties with us. There lays a risk there, something I cannot afford to take at this point," she said.
The justice secretary also cited the "changing" and "varying" list of Mrs. Arroyo's countries of destination. She said that the list was changed at least thrice.
The latest list of countries, she said, includes Singapore, Spain and Italy, where there are no existing extradition treaties.
She cited that the list originally included three countries (United States, Germany and Switzerland), and then added with three more countries.
De Lima also said that she noticed that the dates of the travel and their purpose, which include attendance in international meetings in the US and Geneva, Switzerland, indicate that Mrs. Arroyo is recuperating very well from her illness.
"Precisely [because] she is recuperating fairly well. She was already well enough to even attend conferences.. If her condition was that bad, why go to several destinations na iba-iba rin?" she said, adding that Mrs. Arroyo's travel request was indefinite, which she said she could not allow to happen because the former president is facing several cases of plunder and electoral sabotage. (From Philstar.com)