Where’s Aquino in all these?By Joaquin G. Bernas S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Of course, this is not a joking matter because of the fundamental issues involved. But in the face of the intransigence of executive officials, I cannot help but make a comparison between their actuations and those of Juan Manuel Marquez. Neither can accept a referee’s decision graciously.
The first thing I would ask is: Where is the President in all these?
A basic constitutional doctrine is that the judgment of a department secretary is presumed to be the judgment of the President unless the President expressly reprobates it. The President has not done so. We must therefore conclude that, right or wrong, this is what he wants to happen.
If this is not what he wants, he can easily pick up the phone and tell what the department secretary what he wants. The secretary must obey. At the moment, we know where he stands.
Facts are clear
I believe that the facts are clear enough. A travel ban was imposed on GMA (Arroyo) under the form of a “watch-list order.” In effect, it is a “hold-departure order.”
The lawyers of GMA petitioned the Supreme Court to order the ban lifted. The petition was argued en banc and the Supreme Court spokesperson tells us that among the issues discussed by the justices were the right to travel, the right to life and the presumption of innocence.
In the end, the high court decided to issue a temporary restraining order, or TRO, directing executive officials concerned to allow GMA to travel “effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this court.”
What this means is that only the court, and nobody else, can lift this order. And those ordered by the court must obey—if they recognize that we are under the rule of law.
On Tuesday night, GMA attempted to board a flight to Singapore. On orders of superior authority, GMA was not allowed to depart and had to spend the night at St Luke’s Medical Center-Global City.
What was the reason given by executive officials? They argued, eloquently and ad nauseam, that, since they had not yet received the written order, prudence and wisdom prevented them from allowing the flight.
True it is that normally an officer cannot implement a TRO unless he or she has received an official copy. However, considering the circumstances of the person involved and the publicity that surrounded the court’s order, I find the official reasoning to smack of pharisaical adherence to the letter of the law. It seemed that last night only the executive officials had not yet heard of the TRO.
By this morning, however, it became evident that the nonreception of the official copy of the TRO was not the real reason. The justice secretary simply does not want to lift the ban. It was the secretary who imposed the watch-list order. She can lift it even without a TRO.
The justice secretary has already received the TRO. Still, she continues to insist that GMA should not be allowed to leave. The order of the Supreme Court that the TRO is “effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court” means nothing to her.
Sad, sad thing
Where in the world are we today!!!
The justice secretary seems to be insisting now that a TRO is not effective once a petition for reconsideration is filed. She intends to file one.
The view that a motion for reconsideration will stop the implementation of a TRO can make any TRO absolutely useless! Wonders will never cease.
What I seem to be seeing in all these and in some public reaction is that anger and hatred of GMA has taken over and reason seems to be consigned to the sidelines. That this seems to affect even the highest executive authorities is a sad, sad thing.
Of course, there is also the fear that GMA might not come back. But the government is not too weak not to find ways to bring her back.
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