THE Supreme Court yesterday declared Department of Justice (DoJ) Circular No. 41 as unconstitutional as it impairs the right of an individual to travel as guaranteed under the Constitution.
In light of the ruling, SC spokesman Theodore Te said all issuances in connection with the circular are considered null and void.
“The Court, in interpreting Article III, Section 6, determined that there was no legal basis for Department Circular No. 41 because of the absence of a law authorizing the Secretary of Justice to issue Hold Departure Orders (HDO), Watch List Orders (WLO), or Allow Departure Orders (ADO),” the Court declared.
Art. III, Sec. 6 of the Constitution states: “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. 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.”
The circular was used as basis of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in imposing a travel ban against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel Arroyo pending the resolution of the plunder and electoral sabotage charges filed against them.
This was despite the Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining the DoJ from implementing its orders placing Mrs. Arroyo and her husband in the Bureau of Immigration’s watch list and denying their request for the issuance of an allow departure order (ADO) on the basis of DoJ Circular No. 41.
In November 2011 airport immigration officials prevented the Arroyo couple and several aides from leaving the country upon the directive of De Lima even though they were armed with a copy of the SC TRO.
Arroyo was supposed to seek medical treatment in Singapore, Spain and possibly in Germany for her hypoparathyroidism and metabolic bone disorder.
The travel ban imposed by De Lima also covered Mr. Arroyo’s co-respondents in the electoral sabotage case, namely, former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, former Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, former Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio, Maguindanao officials Nori Unas, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., and Lintang Bedol.