Editorial: Kapag May Usok, May Apoy

The controversy over former President Gloria Arroyo’s bid to travel abroad is getting more sordid every day.

Latest news reports stated that the Supreme Court (SC) had decided to hear the oral arguments by the prosecutors and defense lawyers on a petition seeking to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) in connection with the electoral sabotage case against Arroyo. This decision means that she cannot leave the country, pending resolution of the petition.

An earlier TRO issued by the High Court would have allowed Arroyo to leave for Singapore to seek medical treatment, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima disregarded it.

Later, a Pasay City court issued a warrant for the arrest of Arroyo in connection with the electoral-sabotage case filed against her and two other former officials. She was later arrested in the hospital and placed under “hospital arrest.”

A panel composed of Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Department of Justice (DoJ) officials filed the poll-sabotage case. As a result, the arrest warrant issued on the case rendered moot and academic the issue over SC’s TRO whose legality was earlier upheld by the High Court itself.

The controversy turned more complicated when lawyers of Arroyo questioned the constitutionality of the creation of the joint Comelec-DoJ panel that is investigating alleged electoral fraud involving the former President. The oral arguments on this issue will be heard by SC on Nov. 29, 2011.

The messy affair got messier still when the media played up the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the TRO case. She contended that the TRO could not be enforced because certain requirements were not complied with.

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Because of the legal mumbo-jumbo, Juan dela Cruz is now totally confused. His quest for the truth is now like the search for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

His simple wish is to know the answers to questions that have been nagging him: Will Arroyo be allowed to go abroad? If she is allowed to leave the Philippines, will she come back to face the music? Will she be convicted and punished?

These questions are difficult to answer because the Philippine government has practically no track record of putting VIPs behind bars. If there are answers to the questions, these would be vague as most likely, politics would becloud them.

Due to politics, a cloud of doubts now hovers over the capability of the Supreme Court justices to render impartial justice. Many of the justices are appointees of Arroyo, and from this, doubts arise.

But hope springs eternal, and so we see a silver lining in this sordid affair: For the first time in decades, there is an honest-to-goodness effort to apply the law to all, regardless of whether you are a farmer or a former president.