Drilon: DOJ’s watch list order vs. Arroyos 'illegal'

The watch list order against former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo and others implicated in the electoral sabotage is illegal, said Senator Franklin Drilon.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has placed in the immigration watch list Thursday all respondents in the two electoral sabotage cases filed before the joint DOJ-Commission on Elections (Comelec) Preliminary Investigation Committee in connection with the 2007 polls.

Arroyo, together with her husband Atty. Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and 38 others, is included in the watch list order.

Drilon, however, said that the watch list order is illegal as it impinges on the constitutionally-guaranteed right to travel.

“The watch list order which has the effect of a hold departure order is illegal. To me, the watch list order that encroaches on the right of a person to travel is contrary to the Constitution,” Drilon said in an ambush interview after a Senate hearing Thursday on the Right to Travel Act.

The respondents cannot leave the country without seeking prior permission from the DOJ while the watch list order is in effect.

Drilon believes that under current rules, a watch list order is in effect a hold departure order because a person who is placed under watch list should apply for an allow departure order before the individual can travel.

The senator likewise questioned the continuing authority of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for issuing, in effect, a hold departure order “in the guise of a watch list order” since only the regional trial courts can issue hold departure orders in cases within their jurisdiction.

“The right to travel is a constitutional right and a restriction on the right to travel in the guise of a watch list order is also illegal,” he added.

Drilon, a former Justice secretary, pointed out that while the Arroyos must be made to answer to countless allegations of electoral cheating, the Aquino administration should follow proper procedures.

“Whether or not you are in the opposition or in the administration, these rules should govern,” he said.

According to the lawmaker, several foreign executives in the country have expressed concern on the DOJ’s issuance of a travel restriction since “an ordinary commercial dispute can be made to appear to be a violation of criminal laws and on that basis, a hold departure order could be issued.”

“It is a continuous restriction on the basic rights of citizens and of individuals which we cannot tolerate in a democratic society,” said Drilon.