Supreme Court voids De Lima's watchlist order vs Arroyo in 2011

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday, April 17, declared unconstitutional the watchlist order of detained Senator Leila de Lima against former President Gloria Arrroyo in 2011.

"The Court voting unanimously declared Department of Justice (DOJ) Department Circular No. 41 as unconstitutional for being violative of the right to travel under Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution," SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a news conference on Tuesday at the SC branch in Baguio.

DOJ Circular No. 41 was De Lima's basis as then justice secretary to put Arroyo on a watchlist and bar her from leaving the airport in 2011. De Lima then clashed with the Supreme Court (SC) which issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the watchlist order at the time.

The watchlist order was due to a pending electoral sabotage case against Arroyo, which was eventually dismissed.

"The Court, in interpreting Article III, Section 6, determined that there was no legal basis for Department Circular No. 41 because of the absence of a law authorizing the Secretary of Justice to issue Hold Departure Orders (HDO), Watch List Orders (WLO), or Allow Departure Orders (ADO)," Te added.

Department Circular No. 41 was signed by De Lima's predecessor, acting justice secretary Alberto Agra. It empowered justice secretaries to issue HDOs and WLOs, which are typically issuances that only courts can do.

Individuals issued with HDOs and WLOs under the circular by the justice secretary had to secure an Allow Departure Order (ADO) to be able to leave the country.

Former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued what is called Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) which alerts immigration authorities about the movement of certain personalities, but does not prevent them from leaving the country.

The SC resolved petitions from Arroyo, former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo anbd Ephraim Genuino. Mr Arroyo was also issued a WLO and Genuino was issued an HDO.

The voting was unanimous. Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa inhibited "due to previous participation." Caguioa served as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino.

Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr penned the decision. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen will issue separate concurring opinions.

Asked if the SC decision could be used by Arroyo to pursue charges against De Lima, Te said he would not speculate. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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