Above the written laws, there are those that are unwritten. Sophocles
BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte (MindaNews/18 November) – While a big part of what we call law has been put in writing so as to define in precise terms the rules that govern personal behavior and varied forms of social relations, its text is not a dead end. On many occasions, people and even nations confronted by pressing questions which could not be resolved by and within the limits of written laws saw nothing wrong in stretching the meaning of such laws based on the practical, nay, moral demand of the situation. Reporting to such option is not the legal equivalent of untying the Gordian knot with a sword but an exercise of unearthing the real intent and conscience of the law which may have been buried beneath the rubble of technicalities and superficial interpretations.
This is essentially the debate surrounding former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bid to leave the country supposedly to seek treatment for a disease that has worsened in conjunction with the progress of the graft and election fraud cases against her. At the heart of the debate is whether she should be allowed to go abroad even if she is yet to face an investigation by the prosecutors, and there’s always the likelihood that she and her family will no longer return. Majority of the Supreme Court, which happened to be packed with her appointees, has ruled that she may leave by issuing a temporary restraining order on the hold-departure order against her.
Granting that the Supreme Court majority decided in favor of Arroyo based on so-called merits and not because they wanted to protect their patron, the decision failed to anticipate the adverse consequences in case she leaves and stays abroad for the rest of her life. By focusing on Arroyo’s right to travel and apparently insulating it from related issues the Court effectively placed her personal welfare above national interest. And the national interest is to ensure that she answer the charges against her, which I think is the principal merit of the case.
Would it be a supreme act of injustice if the Court derogates Arroyo’s right to leave the country because she might not come back? Maybe it would be cruel if she is barred from leaving and there’s no expert in the Philippines who can treat her illness. Yet the country has all the experts and facilities she could ask for. Clearly, this and the risk of her escaping liability for large-scale larceny and poll fraud – which would be the greater injustice – were not considered. (Again, I’m presuming that the majority decision was not a form of payback to the former president.)
Further, the Court need not dig deep into the rubble of technicalities that Arroyo’s lawyers have dumped before us to shield her from eventual prosecution to know the importance of upholding the hold-departure order in relation to national interest. There is no Gordian knot to cut; there is only the culture of impunity to break.
Allow Arroyo to leave, and we shall have reached a dead end. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])