What was she thinking? Justice Secretary Leila de Lima got eggs all over her face in the wake of the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in regard to the “hold-departure order” (HDO) she had put out on Jose Miguel Arroyo. Banking on a previous circular of the Department of Justice (circa Raul Gonzalez, that miserable excuse for a justice secretary during the unlamented Arroyo regime), De Lima threw caution to the wind and essayed to test its tenability.
While before it was innocuously called a “watch list” meant merely to keep some shady characters on the Bureau of Immigration’s radar screen to monitor quietly their movements in and out of the country, Secretary De Lima pushed the envelope, ratcheted it up notches higher and transformed it into a flat-out, in-your-face “hold-departure order” which not merely “watched,” but now actually stopped people wanting to go abroad dead in their tracks.
She obviously failed to brush up on prevailing jurisprudence. For quite some time now, it has been a settled rule that as the Constitution guarantees to everyone the right to travel, only the courts, upon lawful cause shown, can issue “hold-departure orders” to stop people against whom serious criminal charges have already been filed in such courts to thwart them from absconding and evading our criminal justice system. Not even Congress can render that constitutional right nugatory even if “in aid of legislation.” In fact, we learned that doctrine way back in law school! Coming as she did straight from the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima should have known better than to tinker with the Bill of Rights.
True, it is just a TRO and that no final decision has yet been rendered by the Supreme Court. But if well-entrenched jurisprudence is any beacon at all, the DOJ might do well to go back to the drawing board and craft something else in lieu of the juggernaut that is about to have its ugly head cut off.
—STEPHEN L. MONSANTO,
Monsanto Law Office,
Loyola Heights, Quezon City;