Subverting justice

It’s a supreme irony that De Lima is now seeking redress for what she maintained to be trumped-up charges against her under a justice system she, as Justice secretary, subverted.

Leila de Lima as Justice Secretary in 2011 made a mockery of the very law she was supposed to enforce when she stopped former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving for the United States to consult medical experts on bone disorders.

De Lima had state forces bar the Arroyos from boarding their plane at the airport even if the Supreme Court had issued a restraining order on the watchlist order she issued against them.

It was of no import to De Lima that Arroyo, whom the yellows accused then of feigning sickness, had undergone spinal surgery thrice in that same year.

The high-handed actions of De Lima reeked of the “what are we in power for” syndrome that had grievously afflicted her and the vindictive, inept and petty administration of the late Noynoy Aquino.

In the corridors of power, Aquino’s lackeys laughed like hyenas that they, in the Executive branch of government, could choose the laws and judicial orders they saw fit to “execute” or implement.

Some others brayed like donkeys that the Arroyos had really wanted to go to America to escape an electoral sabotage case, under preliminary investigation in 2011, that would be filed against them. That case would eventually be junked.

De Lima, by throwing into the wastebasket the SC TRO against her watch list order under Department of Justice Circular 41, sent the message to the public that the SC and the Judiciary it headed were inutile and powerless against the Executive branch.

In 2018, the Supreme Court would revisit Circular 41 and declare it unconstitutional for being “violative of the right to travel under Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution.”

The SC decision may have been mooted long before in relation to the Arroyos, but its ruling added to jurisprudence another layer of protection against violations of the right to travel by the state overarching in the use of its police powers.

In the ruling, the SC voided Circular 41 “because of the absence of a law authorizing the Secretary of Justice to issue hold departure order, watchlist orders, or allow departure orders.”

Clearly, the SC called out the Executive for usurping a power that belonged to the judiciary — the authority to stop people with pending cases from leaving the country without court permission.

What Circular 41 did was to illegally hand to the Justice chief the power not only to issue HDOs and WLOs, but also to require those under such lists to first secure from the DoJ an allow-to-travel order.

Half a decade has passed since this SC ruling, but the Arroyos had not bothered to go after De Lima for trampling upon their right to travel. Maybe because they reckoned De Lima already has too much on her plate with the drug-related charges against her.

It’s a supreme irony that De Lima is now seeking redress for what she maintained to be trumped-up charges against her by the Duterte administration under a justice system she, as Justice secretary, subverted.

Hers is a lesson that all government officials, whether elected or appointed, should take to heart: It doesn’t pay to be drunk with power as the wheel of fate is constantly rotating — you’re at the apex one moment and at rock bottom the next.

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