Whose right to travel?

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was first published in Interaksyon.com on November 16, 2011.

 

Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so that the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms – Alan Harrington

“Nagpapasalamat…kami na nag-offer si Pangulong Aquino na dalhin na lang dito ang doktor at sasagutin daw nila lahat ng gastusin para dito. Will she be selfish and grab the offer? O hayaan na masalbahe ang Konstitusyon na may effect sa taumbayan?…Iisipin na lang ba ang sarili niya, gagaling s’ya, pero sikil naman ang karapatan ng taumbayan?” so said Elena Bautista Horn, the spokesgirl of the never-elected president who occupied Malacañan for nine years.

I was moved by Elena’s response to President Aquino’s magnanimous offer. Maybe it was because I was listening to lawyers who were arguing the right to travel in broad constitutional strokes. Yeah, I thought if the government can do this to Gloria Arroyo they can also do it to me. And then I remembered that I’m not being investigated for plunder, qualified theft, graft and corruption, malversation and/or illegal use of public funds, electoral sabotage, violation of the Omnibus Election Code and Comelec rules and regulations, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

I hope that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Gloria’s right to travel, it does not to do so believing it is doing us a favor,  that it is also safeguarding our constitutional right to travel. Because the circumstances that apply to her do not apply to us. We are not under investigation for any of the crimes she is being charged with. We are not Gloria.

Consequently, the propaganda about Gloria’s petition for a TRO being about “karapatan ng taong bayan” is crap. The TRO is intended only to facilitate the departure of Gloria, her husband, and their dozens of cohorts out of the grasp of the law before they are arraigned. TRO in their case stands for The Ramona (Bautista) Option.

But what about the presumption of innocence that Mike Arroyo claims they deserve? I believe in the principle but not in absolute terms. When I see someone sneak up behind a person and shoot him in the back of the head, my presumption of innocence is suspended. When I see someone snatch a handbag and flee, I suspend my presumption of innocence and I shout, “Stop thief!”

The same goes when I hear Gloria Arroyo on the phone with Virgilio Garcillano. I’m not going to allow a lawyer bamboozle me with an argument that she cannot be charged because the tapped phone call cannot be used in court. I heard what I heard and I shout “Cheater!”

As far as I’m concerned someone like that is a threat to national security, public safety, and public health. National security because anybody who messes with elections undermines the very essence of our democracy. Public safety because unfettered corruption breeds a climate of impunity where those in power have no qualms about mowing down 58 innocents on a desolate Maguindanao hilltop or murdering a whistle blower like Marlene Garcia-Esperat while she was enjoying dinner with her children. Public health because corruption is not only contagious, it also leads to an epidemic of uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea.

The other thing that got me is the protest against President Aquino’s offer to foot the bill for foreign doctors to treat Gloria Arroyo here. The argument goes, “why should public money be spent for her?”

I’ll tell you why. First, Noynoy Aquino was elected because he promised not only “Daang Matuwid” but also to hold the previous administration to account. Erap Estrada came in second because people believed he would also settle scores with Gloria. The other candidates had very poor showings because they promised everything except justice. To repeat, Aquino’s mandate was to settle accounts. Second, prosecuting the wrongdoers of the previous administration will entail the use of taxpayers’ money. Now if it is all right to use taxpayers’ money to prosecute her, why is it not all right to use taxpayers’ money to make sure she is kept here so that she can be prosecuted?

The La Vista couple misstates the attempt to bring them to justice when they say, “We never did anything wrong to the Aquinos. That’s why we’re surprised that he’s doing this to us.”  They are reducing their legal problems to a matter of personal vendetta when the truth is millions of Filipinos elected Noynoy Aquino to lock up that lying cheating plundering couple and their cohorts. Noynoy is fulfilling his mandate. If that is personal with him then it is also personal for the millions they victimized and who are now demanding justice.

Finally, there is the criticism that the Aquino administration would not have this problem if it had worked double time to file charges against the Arroyos and their cohorts. I cannot argue against that criticism. The administration must explain to our satisfaction why it has not moved faster.

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