Human rights raised

11/10/2011 -MANILA, Philippines — Allies of President-turned-Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Senate are calling Malacañang’s cold shoulder to her request to be allowed to seek medicaltreatment abroad a “case of human rights.”
Sen. Joker Arroyo (not related to Mrs. Arroyo) said he finds it “worrisome and unfortunate” that the Department of Justice (DoJ), through its watch list order (WLO), is preventing the former president from seeking medical treatment abroad even without formal charges filed against her before the courts.
“Over and above the weighty constitutional issue of the right to travel, is the overriding issue of human rights, a universal battle cry. Human rights are akin to Christian charity. The human body is inviolable. The Constitution prohibits cruel, degrading or inhumane punishment,” said Sen. Arroyo.
“We have become a very litigious country. And strangely, the (Aquino) government encourages that unhealthy trend,” the senator added.
Sen. Edgardo Angara also said the ruling of DoJ Secretary Leila de Lima “rests on very shaky ground” considering that no formal case has been filed against Mrs. Arroyo.
“I think the hold order (of the DoJ) rest on very shaky ground because you know the right to travel is a Constitutional right of every citizen without even considering the status or position of the person,” Angara said at a weekly press conference in the Senate.
He said the government’s fear that Mrs. Arroyo would evade the charges leveled against her is very unlikely as she is apt to yield to international pressure.
“The probability of her leaving the legal processes of our country may be remote, especially because, at this time and era, there’s practically no place to hide. The arm of the law is longer now and you cannot hide anywhere you go,” Angara said.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said it is going to be a “waste of money” for the government to shoulder her medical expenses.
“Spend the money for the poor instead. Payagan na lang nila (They should just allow her to leave). (It is) so unwise (for government to foot the medical bill of Mrs. Arroyo),” Sotto said in a text message.
“Or are they washing their hands to pass the ball and blame it to the judiciary?” Sotto quipped.
As for Sen. Francis Escudero, an ally of Aquino, he hailed Malacañang’s offer to find a medical specialist to fly into the country to help Mrs. Arroyo, who is one of his godmothers in his marriage.
“(It was a) good and generous gesture which showed the kindness of President Aquino,” he said.
Government lawyers have opposed the plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would lift the watch list order (WLO) issued by the DoJ against Mrs. Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In two urgent manifestations filed by Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, the Supreme Court (SC) was asked to give the government reasonable time to respond to the two petitions filed by the Arroyos, to deny the plea for TRO, and to hold oral arguments on the cases.
“It is respectfully prayed that respondent (DoJ represented by the Office of the Solicitor General) be given reasonable time to comment on the present petition and the application for a TRO before any action on the said application for the issuance of a TRO is taken by the honorable court, or that this very urgent manifestation and motion be treated as an opposition to the said application and that the same be denied for utter lack of merit,” Cadiz said in his manifestations filed late Wednesday afternoon.
De Lima’s rejection of the request for the former First Couple to fly aboard prompted the Arroyos to elevate the issue before the SC on the ground of the alleged unconstitutionality of WLOs issued by the DoJ.
In opposing the plea for TRO and pleading for the eventual dismissal of the two petitions, Cadiz told the SC: “With petitioner’s travel abroad, any eventual decision on the petition would not bring back petitioner to the Philippines. No amount of judgment then will recompense the Philippine state for the irreparable injury caused to it with the flight from Philippine jurisdiction of herein petitioner.”
And with the TRO, Cadiz said the government would be “rendered powerless from compelling her to answer to criminal complaints and charges against her and which are already pending disposition at the preliminary investigation stage.”
In seeking the nullification of the WLO, the former President said she would suffer irreparable injury if the implementation of the WLO issued against her is not nullified immediately.
“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,” Mrs. Arroyo said in a petition filed by former Justice Minister and Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza.
“Having been immobilized by a debilitating condition for the last few months, and having been subject to long operations and their complications, she seeks other experts’ perspective and to receive optimum care to ensure that she will not be disabled for the rest of her life and that her recovery will no longer be impeded by complications, which she has unfortunately experienced for the last few months,” the petition stated.
But Vice President Jejomar C. Binay supported President Benigno S. Aquino III's decision not to allow former President Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad for hypoparathyroidism. He said Aquino is constrained as President that the primordial interest of the government is not to allow Arroyo to leave the country because of the charges of plunder and electoral sabotage she is facing.
Meanwhile Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government intends to tap its contingency fund to pay for the medical expenses of former President Arroyo should she accept the Palace offer to fly in foreign doctors to treat her in the country.
Abad also clarified that the public funds to pay for the foreign doctors will only be released to a government institution, and not to the former leader. (Manila Bulletin)

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