NOVEMBER 16, 2011 (STAR) By Alexis Romero - Malacañang said yesterday that the administration of President Aquino does not intend to create a constitutional crisis when it enforced the watchlist order (WLO) against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel.

The Arroyos were blocked from leaving the country despite a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court last Tuesday.

Aquino had decided to delay by one day his trip to Bali, Indonesia to attend the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), to monitor the situation in the Philippines.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. insisted that the move of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to enforce the WLO is lawful.

“We also have responsibilities to ensure the overall order in our society. It is not the aim of this administration to create a crisis situation where there would be unrest in society,” Coloma told radio dzRH.

“We do not have such agenda and we are just doing what we think is in accordance with law and we assure the public that we do not want to create a crisis,” he added.

Despite their differences over the SC’s TRO that allowed the Arroyos to travel abroad, Coloma said the executive department continues to respect the Supreme Court.

He, however, stressed that it is necessary to obtain a copy of the SC ruling.

“We cannot just read it from the Internet or hear it from the radio or television. I think it would not be unreasonable for the government to ask for a copy of the decision that can serve as its guide in making its next move,” Coloma said.

He said the Arroyo camp has the right to file contempt charges against the justice department and other agencies that barred Arroyo from leaving the country.

Mrs. Arroyo is seeking medical treatment abroad for a rare bone disorder.

The DOJ had issued WLOs against Mrs. Arroyo who is currently facing plunder and electoral sabotage complaints and her husband who is also facing electoral sabotage charges in connection with alleged anomalies during the 2007 polls.

“We will not evade that (charges). We will answer whatever would be filed,” Coloma said.

Malacañang is not worried by the plan of opposition lawmakers allied with Mrs. Arroyo to file an impeachment complaint against Aquino.

“President Aquino affirms his duty to uphold the law and his mandate to fight corruption. He knows he is accountable to the people. He will remain firm in his resolve to tread the straight path,” Coloma said in a text message.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino had decided to reschedule his trip to Bali from yesterday to today in light of recent developments.

Aquino was supposed to leave for Bali yesterday to attend the 19th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

“To monitor the situation,” Lacierda said when asked what prompted the President to delay his trip.

Lawmakers warn of constitutional crisis

Opposition lawmakers warned the people that the country could be headed towards a constitutional crisis due to Malacañang’s refusal to abide by the Court’s TRO.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said the order of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials to enforce the watchlist orders (WLO) against the Arroyo couple was open defiance of the SC and an arrogance of power.

Lagman said not even a motion for reconsideration can delay the execution of the TRO.

“A constitutional crisis could lead to some grievous events and circumstances. It is incumbent on the President to avoid the occurrence of these grave eventualities,” he said.

He said the SC could also deputize an official of the Court or BI to assist the Arroyos to exercise their right to travel.

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said if the Aquino administration could violate the rights of a former president and an incumbent elected member of Congress, how much more to an ordinary citizen.

“We have a spoiled brat of a DOJ Secretary, defying the Supreme Court. I was expecting that the Secretary of Justice would be the first one to uphold the law. But apparently in this case, she has proven that she is willing to sacrifice even her very person… just for political gain,” Magsaysay said.

She recalled when opposition lawmakers got an unfavorable ruling from the SC in connection with the law postponing the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Aquino administration respected the ruling and did not protest.

Sen. Francis Escudero criticized De Lima for acts that might trigger a constitutional crisis and give Mrs. Arroyo grounds to seek political asylum in another country.

“The DOJ should stop coming up with absurd ideas about the laws of the land just so it can be experimented at the Supreme Court. They are handling this case with braggadocio to the point of dragging the entire nation into a constitutional crisis,” he added.

Escudero said the TRO on the WLO issued by the DOJ against Arroyo and her husband should be respected and complied with as provided by law.

“President Aquino is not a lawyer and so he relies on… his legal advisers led by Secretary De Lima. I don’t know where they got the theory that a TRO may be subjected to a motion for reconsideration,” Escudero said.

“To test the limits of her (De Lima’s) power within the bounds of the law, yes, but not when it comes to coming up with a noble and sometimes absurd interpretations of the law. Stretching (the interpretation) of the law is different from an absurd interpretation of the law,” he added.

Escudero said that the statements made by De Lima about the TRO were shocking to all lawyers and even to law students who have basic knowledge of the law.

“I also have my fears that ex-president Arroyo might flee, escape and not return to the country. But it is not right that we use illegal methods to prevent her (from leaving). Because if we do this then we are no different from them (the Arroyo administration),” he said.

Escudero also expressed concern over the drama that took place at the airport last Tuesday night that could have provided the former president and her family the basis to seek political asylum abroad.

He pointed out that the airport episode, as seen through the eyes of foreign governments, would favor the Arroyos.

“(This is) a constitutional crisis, what more can you say when the President defies the TRO. That is a crisis! Because they no longer follow the Supreme Court. The Constitution says that any order of the Supreme Court is superior to that of the any official, including that of the President. That is what the Constitution says,” said Sen. Joker Arroyo.

Arroyo, who denied being an ally of the former president, said De Lima’s actions could be seen as a declaration of war by the executive branch against the Supreme Court.

“What happened last (Tuesday) night was a declaration of war of the President. I mean the executive branch against the SC, which is a coequal body. Imagine the presidency and the SC fighting each other, that is very bad for the country,” Arroyo said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the SC-DOJ standoff has put the country in a constitutional crisis. This had put the entire citizenry in a dilemma and further confusion.

“Yes. That is very clearly a real danger that our country is facing. Are we going to support the Supreme Court? Or shall we support the executive branch versus the SC? It’s really headed for disaster. We’re very, very near the edge of the cliff and we might all go tumbling down if we do not put a break to all of these proceedings,” Santiago said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said De Lima’s defiance of the SC order might result in a crisis. “That (defiance) can happen, once, twice or even thrice. That means we can opt not to follow the Supreme Court. That means we can defy and not follow the laws since the DOJ itself defied the SC and had not followed the law,” Sotto said.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., an ally of the former president, expressed alarm over the looming feud between the SC and the DOJ.

“Obviously there is a grave crisis that must be averted. Under the circumstances, the urgent burden of whatever damage may have been caused by yesterday’s events appears to be on the shoulders of the executive,” Revilla said.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, an ally of the Aquino administration, said that the the President is apparently testing the limits of his authority with the action taken against Arroyo. – With Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Sheila Crisostomo, Rhodina Villanueva

Just like the previous administration tested the limits of its powers under the Constitution with the issuance of Executive Order 464 and the calibrated preemptive response, Drilon said that the current administration is also pressing the limits of its authority.

Drilon was referring to EO 464 that former president Arroyo had issued to prevent Cabinet members and other top government officials from testifying in congressional hearings without permission of Malacañang.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), for its part, yesterday urged the judiciary and the executive departments to exercise “restraint and prudence” in dealing with issues concerning the travel ban on Mrs. Arroyo.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on the other hand said that the Aquino government is partly to blame if Arroyo escapes justice.– With Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Sheila Crisostomo, Rhodina Villanueva

De Lima faces CA grilling By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) Updated November 18, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima faces rough sailing before the Commission on Appointments (CA) regarding her Cabinet appointment following her apparent defiance of the Supreme Court (SC) order allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave for medical treatment abroad.

The CA secretariat under Arturo Tiu revealed yesterday that they have received the reappointment papers of De Lima, along with those of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman from Malacañang dated Oct. 13.

De Lima is among the members of the Aquino Cabinet whose appointments have yet to be confirmed by the CA.

Lawmakers led by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes IV have all agreed that De Lima would have a difficult time at the CA subcommittee on justice.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, chairman of the CA subcommittee of justice, said he is ready to start the confirmatory hearings for De Lima.

De Lima, for her part, said she is ready to face the CA anytime and defend her actions, including her move perceived as a defiance of the SC order.

“I’m always prepared to face the CA hearing... I’m prepared to answer questions... I’m prepared to confront issues that they want to be clarified during my CA (hearing),” De Lima said.

“Of course it will depend (on the questions and) that they will treat me fairly during the proceedings. Everything (should be) done with utmost professionalism,” De Lima told reporters at the Senate yesterday.

De Lima is facing controversy over her apparent defiance of the SC order allowing Arroyo to leave abroad for medical treatment.

The SC issued a temporary restraining order on the implementation of memorandum circular 41 issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) imposing a travel ban on Arroyo.

The memo allows the Justice secretary to place a person in a watchlist.

De Lima appeared at the Senate a day after the DOJ submitted its budget for 2012 during plenary session.

De Lima chanced upon her nemesis, Senator Lacson, while they were waiting for a ride at the elevator at the fifth floor of the Senate.

De Lima was walking towards the elevator with Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes when Lacson emerged from his office to attend the Senate budget hearings at the plenary hall on the second floor.

Lacson exchanged pleasantries with Brillantes, apparently ignoring De Lima. Lacson, Brillantes and their entourage boarded the elevator used exclusively by senators while De Lima and her aides used the next elevator, apparently to avoid any confrontation.

Lacson had made public his desire to grill De Lima during her CA hearing and question her apparent focus on the senator’s involvement in the Dacer-Corbito murders. This caused Lacson to go into hiding for more than a year in 2009.

De Lima is among the controversial Cabinet members whose appointments have yet to be confirmed by the CA.

Robredo, on the other hand, was appointed by President Aquino as officer-in-charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) shortly after the President assumed office last year.

Robredo figured in a controversy over the mishandling of the Manila bus hostage crisis that left dead several Hong Kong tourists and in the process affected the country’s relations with the former crown colony in 2010.

Soliman, meanwhile, is being grilled over the multi-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez’s appointment papers dated Oct. 13 have been submitted to the CA. Jimenez was appointed early this year following the resignation of Alberto Lim.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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