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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dominican Republic: No asylum bid for Arroyo

The Dominican Republic's foreign minister denied reports from Philippine officials that former President Gloria-Arroyo has requested asylum in the Caribbean nation.

Carlos Morales Troncoso told The Associated Press in Dominican Republic that they have not received an application for asylum from Arroyo.

Arroyo is facing corruption complaints and has been barred from seeking medical treatment abroad.

Alan Paguia, a legal expert, said that imposing a travel ban against the Pampanga lawmaker without constitutional basis violates her right to travel and will boost her chance of being granted political asylum if she opts to seek refuge abroad.

"It will be easier for Mrs. Arroyo to apply for asylum because the administration is showing patent persecution of her," Paguia said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said earlier that she was checking reports that Arroyo had asked for political asylum in the Dominican Republic, where she visited early this year.

A newspaper column on Wednesday said Hans Dannenberg, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to India, personally delivered asylum papers to the former President on October 25.

The Philippines has no extradition treaty with the Dominican Republic and with this the former President cannot be deported by the host country even if cases are lodged against her.

Ferdi Topacio, Arroyo’s lawyer allayed fears about her proposed medical travel to nations without extradition treaties with the Philippines, saying she can be forced back to the country if government cancels her passport.

"Extradition treaties aren't needed - all that must be done is to cancel her passport so the country where she is can repatriate her for being an undocumented alien," Topacio said.

President Benigno Aquino III has refused to lift Arroyo's travel ban, saying she might never return to face the charges, which she denies.

Paguia said Arroyo could apply for asylum if she wanted since it was her right to pursue such course of action to flee persecution.

He said despite Arroyo being under Department of Justice (DOJ) watch list order (WLO) in connection with several cases, she remained free to go abroad.

"WLO is not an authority to deprive a person of his liberty," he said.
He said travel restriction must be based on due process even if the Arroyo issue is imbued with public interest.

"The Constitution requires a judicial order - which means a case should have been filed in court - or a specific provision of law," he said.
Neither requirement already existed in Arroyo's case at this point so she was free to travel, he said.

Paguia also said that the administrative circular was far from being the judicial order, or law, which the Constitution requires.

"Such circular is just a guideline which the executive branch issued - laws are issued by the judicial branch," he said.

Topacio also said De Lima erred in banning Arroyo from traveling abroad, noting such decision is unconstitutional.

Article III, Sec. 6 of the Constitution provides that "the liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court."

The same provision states that "neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law."

Arroyo's case doesn't fall under any of such three constitutional limitations, Topacio pointed out.

"She can't be prevented from traveling therefore," he said.

Arroyo, who is suffering from hypoparathyroidism and bone mineral disorder, has since petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the watch list orders against her and husband Jose Miguel because it supposedly curtailed their constitutional right to travel.

In response, the High Court conducted a special raffle of the two cases, and court spokesman Midas Marquez said that they will be treated as urgent during the en banc session on November 15.

Soon after she stepped down in June 2010 however, the 64-year-old Pampanga lawmaker is now facing cases of electoral sabotage and plunder. Given the gravity of these complaints, the government asked her to seek permission first before embarking on an overseas travel.

Aquino, who has long accused Arroyo's administration of corruption, told reporters at a televised news conference that allowing her predecessor to leave the country would be an unacceptable risk.

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Source: Sun Star

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