International human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney has confirmed what some of us have been saying all along – that former President and Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo‘s human rights are being violated by the Philippine government under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino.
As early as 2011, concerned individuals have already highlighted how the cases against Arroyo seem to have been rushed just to meet the criteria needed to prevent her from leaving the country in her bid to seek medical treatment for her problems with her cervical spine. Despite the fact that there was still no pending case against Arroyo at that time, her right to travel and her right to presumption of innocence have been trampled upon by the Aquino administration.
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We recall that there was pandemonium at the Manila international airport in November 2011 when Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima panicked after she found out Arroyo was leaving the country and ordered officers at the airport to help bar her from leaving for Singapore. And with the assistance of the media in inciting anger against Arroyo, some members of the public also joined the fray – besieging her at the airport. Her frail and helpless appearance on a wheelchair did not stop them from acting like a lynch mob. The scene resulted in a standoff because Arroyo’s supporters insisted on her right to travel abroad as stated in the Philippine Constitution.
De Lima’s initial violation back then was in defying the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on the travel ban against Arroyo. De Lima even risked disbarment for ignoring the highest court’s order. Senator Miriam Santiago likewise questioned De Lima’s action citing the DOJ had no legal basis to issue a watch-list order against Arroyo since there was no pending case against the former President and was only a respondent in a joint DOJ Comelec investigation on electoral fraud at that time.
Santiago said the DOJ had “no legal basis” to issue watch-list orders based on the memorandum circular.
She rejected the argument that Arroyo’s constitutional right to travel could be suppressed as a matter of “national interest.” She noted that a person could be barred from traveling based only on three exceptions: national security, public safety or public health.
“It is a very serious and grave mistake to think that national security, public safety and public health can be interchanged with national interest,” she said. “We are putting words in the mouth of the Constitution, that is why the Supreme Court ruling is correct.”
It was apparent then that De Lima was acting on orders from President BS Aquino. He even cut short his overseas trip when he found out Arroyo was about to leave the country. De Lima acted like the President’s thug and seemingly obeyed his orders to do anything – even break the law and deny basic human rights – just to prevent Arroyo from leaving the country.
Fast forward to 2015, De Lima’s actions have come back to bite her. Now that Amal Alamuddin Clooney, a high-profile international lawyer, has brought Arroyo’s case to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the DOJ’s and the local court’s actions or inaction on Arroyo’s plight is being exposed at the world stage. This can only mean bad news for the Aquino government. It is another blow on BS Aquino’s bid for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It remains to be seen if the President will back De Lima or use her as scapegoat and say “De lima fooled me” once the UN grants a decision in favor of Arroyo. If Alamuddin-Clooney wins this case, the Philippine government will have to apologize to the former President; pay her damages; order her immediate release and grant her permission to seek medical treatment abroad for her illness.
We can already predict BS Aquino washing his hands off any responsibility on this matter. Unfortunately for him, his penchant for conducting a trial by media against Arroyo is all on record especially since he never misses an opportunity to badmouth her during his speeches. He made people believe that Arroyo is to blame for everything including his own shortfalls during his term.
As expected, De Lima and BS Aquino’s supporters were quick to dismiss Alumuddin-Clooney as “flamboyant” and “clueless” as per some lawyer’s group. They probably think she is dumb enough to take on a case without studying it first; as if she could reach her status by being careless like De Lima. The lawyers advised her to focus on the cases of ordinary citizens who do not have the money or connections like Arroyo. What they don’t realize is that, if a high-profile individual like Arroyo can be denied justice, what more ordinary citizens? Arroyo’s high profile case, if she were to be granted her rights, would set a precedent for justice and rule of law to prevail in the Philippines.
De Lima also denies that Arroyo’s continued detention is a result of political persecution. Never mind that most of Arroyo’s co-accused in her plunder case have been granted bail while she remains detained in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center; not to mention, most of the cases filed against Arroyo were already dismissed for lack of evidence or for being weak.
The problem is, BS Aquino won the public when he repeatedly vowed to prosecute Arroyo. But instead of prosecution, what he pursued was persecution, particularly when he blames her in his speeches. He still blames her even after being in office for five years. Her continued detention is probably a way for BS Aquino to hide his embarrassment. BS Aquino’s bullying tactics are probably influencing members of the local courts to rule against Arroyo’s request for bail.
It is too bad that it had to take someone from abroad like Alamuddin-Clooney to remind Filipinos about human rights violations. It seems Filipinos have lost the ability to sympathize with the sick and elderly. They need to be reminded that they will fall sick and get old too one day. Sadly, a lot of Filipinos were gullible enough to believe in the negative propaganda perpetuated by BS Aquino and his supporters against Arroyo so much so that they think punishing Arroyo this way is justified. It is baffling how the innocent-until-proven-guilty or presumption of innocence doctrine only applies to BS Aquino and his allies.
It is also unfortunate how a lot of BS Aquino supporters are now attacking Alamuddin-Clooney’s personality. They claim that she has a penchant for defending “evil” clients and that she is allowing herself to be used by opportunistic people. It is not surprising that Aquino supporters would stoop down to ad hominem and red herring argumentation. They resort to that when they cannot use reason to defend their position.
[Photo of Amal Alamuddin Clooney courtesy NBC News.]
In life, things are not always what they seem.