By Ellen Tordesillas
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima looked and sounded desperate in her early evening presscon Tuesday trying to salvage the situation where the government was in danger of losing face in the struggle to make Gloria Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the Filipino people.
Defying the High Court's temporary restraining order against her Watch Order List against the Arroyos, she ordered all agencies concerned not to allow the couple to exit the country because as far as she is concerned, the SC's order cannot yet be implemented because she has not received it yet and she still has to file a motion for reconsideration.
Asked if the Arroyos, who were booked for a late afternoon flight to Singapore, would be arrested if they insisted on leaving after they have posted the P2 million each bond, De Lima admitted she cannot order the arrest of the Arroyos because no warrants of arrest have been issued by the court.
No warrants of arrest have been issued because her office has not yet filed a case against the Arroyos.
Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez, in explaining the 8-5 decision of the SC granting the Arroyos a TRO against the implementation of the WLO barring them from leaving the country, took note that "the Arroyo couple had not yet been charged with any crime."
Marquez said the High Court's decision was "consistent with the constitutional presumption of innocence."
Why has there been no case filed against the Gloria and Mike Arroyo after one year and five months in office? That is what De Lima has to answer to the people.
All these desperate attempts of preventing the Arroyos to leave for abroad,to the point of bending the law, would not have been necessary if the DOJ had filed unbailable cases against Gloria and Mike Arroyo.
In last Tuesday's briefing, she said that they may be able to file the electoral sabotage case against the Arroyos in connection with the 2007 election before Christmas because they are making sure that "the charges will stick."
To make the electoral sabotage charge stick, we expect that they have more than just the testimony of Norie Unas, the senior aide of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, who said he heard Arroyo tell his boss to make sure of a 12-0 win for senatorial candidates of Team Unity.
The greatest crime of Gloria Arroyo is the stealing of the presidency in the 2004 elections. The problem is, the crime of electoral sabotage was enacted in 2007.
But the grand theft of the 2004 elections led to more thieveries like the fertilizer scam, the Road Users tax anomaly, the NBN/ZTE which can be subjects of plunder cases against the Arroyos. Some individuals like Frank Chavez and organizations like Bayan have filed plunder cases against Arroyo and they are still also in the preliminary investigation stage with the DOJ and the Ombudsman.
Had plunder and electoral sabotage charges been filed against the Arroyos, the court, after ascertaining that the finding of probable cause was in order, would have been the one to order the warrant of arrest and Hold Departure Order against the Arroyos.
This distressing standoff between the Executive and the Judiciary would have been avoided.