Arroyos will try to fly to Singapore ThursdayBy Cynthia D. Balana, Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will leave Thursday for Singapore to see an endocrinologist, her spokesperson said Wednesday.
Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, postponed her trip planned for Wednesday because her “elevated” blood pressure, purportedly brought about by the refusal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to allow her and her party to leave for abroad on Tuesday night, “has not normalized yet up to this time,” Elena Bautista-Horn said.
According to Horn, Arroyo and her party will fly out Thursday for a scheduled checkup at 12:15 p.m. with an endocrinologist in Singapore.
She said Arroyo would be accompanied by her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, a nurse, a close-in aide, and two members of the couple’s respective staffs.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said the Arroyos had earlier booked passage on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 919, which departed at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday.
But the airline said the reservations were voided when the couple failed to show up an hour before the scheduled flight, according to MIAA public affairs office chief Connie Bungag.
If the Arroyos intend to be in Singapore by noon Thursday, they should be in any of these flights: Philippine Airlines’ PR 511, which is to leave at around 6 a.m.; Tiger Airways’ TR 2729, 6:20 a.m.; Cebu Pacific’s 5J-801, 6:25 a.m.; and Singapore Airlines’ SQ 915, 8:10 a.m.
Horn said the meeting with the doctor was for an evaluation of Arroyo’s disease of the glands. She said the latter did not like taking too many medicines. Earlier reports said Arroyo’s medication came up to at least 25 capsules a day.
“I’m sure Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has run out of excuses. That’s Constitution 101. [On Tuesday], she said the DOJ had yet to receive the Supreme Court decision. But we’ve just learned that the department received it [Tuesday] night. So there is no more reason for her not to allow Mrs. Arroyo to leave,” Horn told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
De Lima said on Tuesday afternoon that the Arroyos would remain on the watch list of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) because she had yet to receive a copy of the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on the travel ban on the couple.
Horn said Arroyo was still at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City Wednesday morning because the latter felt bad after being stopped from leaving by immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (Naia 1).
Commenting on the government’s offer to shoulder the cost of bringing in a foreign doctor of Arroyo’s choice, Horn said the money would be better used to pay government lawyers to defend the case against her boss.
Ready for jail
Speaking at a press conference, Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said he was ready to go to jail along with other immigration officers at the Naia if they would be charged with contempt of court for barring Arroyo from leaving the country on Tuesday night.
“I will join them in jail because this is an order of the Secretary (De Lima) given to me, which I gave to our airport supervisors and relayed to our immigration officers. All of us are in this because there is a pyramid organization in BI. If they say we will be imprisoned for a few months, we will join them. But I pity our immigration officers who were just doing their jobs,” he said.
David said he was in the office of MIAA General Manager Angel Honrado when the Arroyos arrived at the airport.
The immigration commissioner said four persons who were to accompany the Arroyos were able to board the Dragon Air aircraft but that they deplaned after learning that the couple were not allowed to leave.
David said De Lima’s verbal and written orders to enforce the watch-list order (WLO) were simple.
“I’m from the military. The instructions to me by the person above me is very easy [to obey],” he said. “It was an instruction of our superior that we believed is a lawful order. I told the airport supervisor that in order for the WLO to be lifted, there should be a directive from the DOJ to me. So [Arroyo’s] passport was not stamped and she could not take her flight.”
Sympathy for BI officers
David said a written court order instructing the immigration bureau to remove the Arroyos from the watch list was needed before the couple would be allowed to leave.
“That is why I ordered the immigration officers not to allow them to leave. If there’s an existing WLO, only [De Lima] can lift it,” he said.
According to David, the Arroyos and their entourage brought numerous copies of the TRO, and they were advised to take these to the justice department or the BI for processing.
David said that even if the Arroyos were allowed into the airport, they would not be allowed to leave because their passports would not be stamped.
“The passport was given to one immigration officer who gave it to the supervisor. It was passed around. There was no delaying tactic. Why would there be a delaying tactic when their passports won’t be stamped in the first place because of the WLO? You can’t board the plane without the stamp,” he said.
David said he thought Arroyo’s trip to the airport proved “strenuous” for her. He declined to comment on criticisms that the couple were just trying to gain public sympathy.
“My sympathy is with our immigration officers because they were just doing their jobs. We didn’t block anyone,” he said.
David said he told the immigration officers at the airport not to argue with Arroyo’s lawyers.
“My instruction to them is that we cannot discuss the point of law because we’re not brilliant lawyers. Even if we have a lawyer, this is not the venue to discuss the merits. They should discuss that with the DOJ,” he said.
The Arroyos were put on the watch list on October 28 in connection with their alleged involvement in the poll fraud being investigated by DOJ and the Commission on Elections.
The order is effective for 60 days unless revoked or extended by the justice department.
Reposted From Cynthia D. Balana and Jerome Aning of Philippine Daily Inquirer