“Watchlist Orders” have been in use for 39 years, Arroyo’s ex-Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez says – My exclusive
By Raïssa Robles
A piece of paper called the “Watchlist Order” is all that’s keeping ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband from traveling overseas. They have asked the Supreme Court to scrap Watchlist Orders altogether because these violate their constitutional right to travel. They pointed out that no case has been filed yet in court against them.
But their motion has angered Yogie Martirizar, who has been prevented from traveling abroad for the last four years by a similar Watchlist Order imposed on her by the government of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Her requests to scrap the Watchlist Order were repeatedly turned down by the Arroyo government, Martirizar’s lawyer Nena Santos told me in an interview.
Martirizar’s case is particularly interesting because she suffers from a similar endocrine disorder as Mrs Arroyo. Santos said:
Martirizar suffers almost the same calcium deficiency absorption sickness as that of GMA. She has doctors in the Philippines that treat her for the same sickness as Arroyo.
Like the Arroyo couple, Matirizar is also charged with electoral sabotage. And like them, her case is still also under preliminary investigation and has not reached the court.
Her lawyer Santos said:
“When they were not affected, it was okay for them to affect ordinary citizens like my client with the Watchlist Order and let her suffer. Now, it’s karma. They want it removed.
Arroyo should be treated same as Martirizar, pursuant to Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s Watchlist Order. Martirizar was not allowed by immigration to travel; GMA should likewise be treated the same with her own administration department order that curtailed Martirizar’s right to travel.”
The Supreme Court will meet Tuesday on Arroyo’s plea. Santos said she might intervene because an SC ruling in Arroyo’s favor would prejudice her client:
“I want to tell the Supreme Court that before, when my client was prejudiced (by the Watchlist Order), they did not complain. Now that they are affected they want it declared illegal and unconstitutional. Are they admitting now – that even before – they knew it was unconstitutional and illegal and yet they used it against my client?”
Santos said they had never questioned the Watchlist Order because:
“When a government agency issues an order, there is a presumption of regularity and validity.”
Santos estimated that several thousand Filipinos have been similarly affected by Watchlist Orders imposed during Arroyo’s nine-year presidency.
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