By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
THE Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday voted unanimously to declare as unconstitutional a Department of Justice (DoJ) order giving the Secretary of Justice the power to issue Watch List Orders (WLOs), Hold Departure Orders (HDOs), and Allow Departure Orders (ADOs), according to court spokesperson Theodore O. Te.
Mr. Te said the court ruled DoJ’s Department Circular No. 41 as being “violative of the right to travel under Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution… as a consequence, all issuances released pursuant to said DoJ Department Circular are null and void.”
He added: “The Court, in interpreting Article III, Section 6, determined that there was no legal basis for Department Circular No. 41 because of the absence of a law authorizing the Secretary of Justice to issue HDOs, WLOs, or ADOs.”
Article III on the Bill of Rights states, “the right to travel (may not) be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
Mr. Te said all justices except Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, who inhibited due to his participation in a previous case included in the resolution, concurred with Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr.’s resolution, with Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justice Marvic F. Leonen submitting separate concurring opinions.
The ruling serves to void the WLOs issued in 2011 by then justice secretary Leila M. De Lima against former president Gloria M. Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel “Mike” T. Arroyo, as well as the HDO against former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairman Efraim C. Genuino.
The case against the Arroyo was in connection with election sabotage allegations, and the case against Mr. Genuino was in connection with the alleged misuse of PAGCOR funds
Department Circular No. 41 was issued on May 25, 2010, during Ms. Arroyo’s presidency, by her justice secretary then, Alberto C. Agra.
Under President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Ms. De Lima was reportedly about to be handed down an HDO but this was preceded by her arrest in February 2017 on drug charges filed by his administration.
Sought for comment on the SC decision, University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Antonio G.M. La Viña noted,”Many government decisions have been made which are later declared unconstitutional.”