By Jelly F. Musico
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III threw his full support on Sunday behind Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her efforts to pursue the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for plunder and electoral sabotage.
“I unequivocally support Secretary De Lima, for she had prevented Arroyo from leaving for abroad and escaping prosecution. She should be commended instead of reproached for upholding justice and the rule of law,” Pimentel said.
At the same time, Pimentel commended Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for her dissenting opinion on the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court against the DOJ’s watch list order on the former President and her husband, Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo.
Sereno had argued that the Nov. 15 TRO had remained ineffective because the Arroyo couple had failed to comply with Condition No. 2 — that “the petitioners shall appoint a legal representative common to both of them who will receive subpoena, orders, and other legal processes on their behalf during their absence.”
Sereno averred that “the TRO is conditional, and cannot be made use of until compliance has been done. …(As) there was failure by petitioners to comply with Condition No. 2, the TRO is implicitly deemed suspended until there is compliance with such condition. A conditional TRO is what it is, conditional.”
Pimentel said: “With all due respect to the Supreme Court, I believe that it should desist from citing Secretary De Lima for contempt for allegedly ignoring the TRO they issued against the enforcement of the watch list order on Arroyo.”
“Secretary De Lima was well within her mandate and prerogative as head of the Justice Department to insist that the right to travel is not absolute. Even before the Supreme Court issued its TRO, there were already six plunder complaints filed against Arroyo with the Office of the Ombudsman and another complaint for electoral sabotage with the DOJ and the Comelec,” Pimentel pointed out.
The senator said that “to have allowed Arroyo to leave for abroad would have been tantamount to abdicating Secretary De Lima’s duty to uphold the rule of law in the country.”
Pimentel also praised Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who had also expressed a dissenting opinion. Carpio emphasized that “While the right to travel is a constitutional right that may be impaired only ‘in the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law,’ there are recognized exceptions other than those created by law. Foremost is the restriction on the right to travel of persons charged of crimes before the courts.”
Carpio noted that the Arroyo couple were “already undergoing preliminary investigation in several criminal cases” and that “in fairness to the Government which is tasked with the prosecution of crimes, the Supreme Court must hear first the Government in oral argument before deciding on the temporary restraining order which if issued could frustrate the Government’s right to prosecute.”