The few voices crying “persecution” in denouncing the Aquino administration’s move to stop former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s attempt to fly to Singapore don’t seem to understand the difference between “persecution” and “prosecution.”
When a person who is as clean as a whistle with no legal or criminal impediment is harassed, oppressed, punished and deprived of her rights—in particular the right to travel—that is persecution. But when one who is carrying a heavy criminal baggage is stopped from leaving the country, especially when there are strong indications that she has no intention to return, that is in the exercise of the state’s power to prosecute. We call that prosecution, a process by which the state can exact retribution on those suspected, accused and found guilty of crimes.
Arroyo is facing a host of charges—six of which are plunder and graft cases, apart from the electoral sabotage case that has been filed with the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, for which she was arrested last Nov. 18.
Without the issuance of the arrest warrant against her, which placed her under government custody, she could have made her Singapore flight on the strength of a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court.
It is to the credit of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that Arroyo failed to board a plane for Singapore.
De Lima was assailed by the Arroyo camp for “defying” the Supreme Court TRO. But she stood her ground even at the risk of being held in contempt by the tribunal and of not being confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, as a senator had threatened. De Lima has earned public accolade for her feistiness in defense of a righteous cause. Not only LP members of the House of Representatives but also a big throng of citizens have thrown their full support behind her.
The question is: Should we have allowed Arroyo to travel abroad and open the possibility for her to escape prosecution, or should we make sure that she stand trial and, if convicted, pay for her crimes?
Any right-thinking Filipino should stand for justice taking its proper and irreversible course.
—JULLIE ANNE CRISOSTOMO, firstname.lastname@example.org