Should former President and now congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo be allowed or not to travel abroad to seek treatment or consultation on her ailment?
For Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the answer is no, pointing out that her itinerary to five countries was doubtful and because she was facing plunder and election sabotage charges, Mrs. Arroyo was a flight risk and may not return back to the Philippines to face the charges against her. The DoJ chief also cited that some of the countries to be visited by Mrs. Arroyo have no extradition treaty with the Philippines and if she seeks refuge there, she may not be forced to return home.
To some, Malacanang should not needlessly agonize over whether to allow Mrs. Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad. It can uphold the hold order issued by the DoJ chief as it is her constitutional right to travel wherever she pleases and to get doctors of her choice where it is here in the Philippines or overseas. Or Malacanang could simply lift the hold-order and rely on the former President’s pledge that she will be back to face the charges, since there is no formal charges filed against her yet in court and there is no court order to hold her. Whatever will be the decision, the Palace, after all, cannot please everybody.
Mrs. Arroyo may have anticipated the DoJ chief’s ruling, so, through her lawyer, former Justice Secretary Estelito Mendoza, she petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on the HDO (hold departure order) imposed by the DoJ so she cannot seek treatment abroad. And since the case is pending in the High Court, everybody cannot, in the meantime, discuss the issue.
The issue, however, is not the constitutional right of Mrs. Arroyo to travel abroad for medical treatment. The issue now is whether or not she should be made accountable for the plunder charges and the election sabotage cases filed against her. The courts and the government machinery should act on the complaints with dispatch, otherwise it may be accused of delaying justice and, thus, later justice will be denied.
Meantime, let’s wait for the High Court decision on the issue of constitutional right to travel and select doctors of an individual’s choice. If Mrs. Arroyo, who claims to be gravely ill, gets a temporary restraining order against her HDO, she may pursue her travel abroad. And if she will not return to face the charges against her, she will forever be condemned in the Philippines and the world.