Build a strong case

November 22, 2011 at 14:29

This is a re-posted op-ed piece.

In the dizzying developments in recent days, all parties concerned appeared to be racing against time, and even taking short cuts to achieve their desired ends. The Supreme Court granted a temporary restraining order ex parte, or without giving the government a chance to comment, as requested by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, allowing her to leave the country. The former president, accompanied by her husband, lost no time in trying to fly out, only to be stopped by authorities at the NAIA.

With the SC TRO noting that the constitutional right to travel cannot be impaired in the absence of a court order, the Department of Justice and the Commission on Elections filed early yesterday with the Pasay City Regional Trial Court a formal complaint against the former president for electoral sabotage, a serious offense that warrants the denial of bail.

By late afternoon yesterday, the arrest order was issued and served. The SC sustained its TRO but announced that because of the filing of the electoral case in court, Arroyo could no longer leave the country. Her husband, who was cleared of the same offense, was free to leave by virtue of the TRO. The Arroyo camp notified NAIA authorities that the former president had canceled her flight plans. And Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced that the government would not object to “hospital arrest” for Arroyo, who is recuperating from neck surgery complicated by hypoparathyroidism.

De Lima will still have to explain why she ignored the TRO and prevented Arroyo from leaving. With the camp of the accused seeing undue haste in yesterday’s developments, the government must focus on ensuring that it has a tight case against those now facing charges in court for rigging the 2007 vote. Elections are at the heart of democracy, and appropriate punishment must be imposed on those who subvert the voice of the people through cheating. The burden of proof is on the accuser, and the government must ensure that Arroyo is accorded due process. Anything less than that will open the administration to accusations of political persecution rather than prosecution.
Source: The Philippine Star, Editorial, Nov. 19, 2011
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