Immigration officials barred the Arroyos from leaving the country on Tuesday night. This was after the couple got a temporary restraining order against an immigration watchlist order, disallowing them from seeking medical help outside of the country.
Television footage from ABS-CBN showed the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1, expecting past 8:00 pm, just minutes before their reportedly booked 8:50 Dragon Air flight.
Lawyers of the Arroyos said in a radio report that the immigration officials followed orders issued by Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. They said that barring the Arroyos from leaving violated their constitutional right.
"This is worse than Martial Law," one of the lawyers told media, as the Arroyos were exiting the airport.
The former First Gentleman who admitted that Pampanga Representative Arroyo was disappointed said the decision was very cruel. He also went on to call the justice department as a "Department of Injustice."
The Pampanga Representative, wearing an orthopedic medical brace and a face mask, arrived via an ambulance from the St. Luke's Medical Center-Taguig and was wheeled to the airport.
After checking-in, Arroyo will be allowed to use the airport's presidential lounge as a privilege being a former president, the ABS-CBN report added.
Also seen at the airport were Arroyo's eldest son, Mikey, and her spokesman Elena Bautista-Horn.
It was not immediately clear whether the couple will be able to fly Tuesday night, amid reports that Department of Justice Leila de Lima ordered Bureau of Immigration officials of "status quo" over another watchlist order.
SC Oks TRO
Earlier in the day, the couple have gotten permission to leave PH as the Supreme Court issued a TRO against the DoJ's watchlist order.
As soon as the couple complies with the conditions of the TRO, they may leave the country, says Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez in a televised press conference.
The Arroyos have been seeking permission to seek medical treatment abroad over the former president's bone illness.
Marquez said as part of the TRO on DoJ's Circular 41, the couple must meet the following conditions: be able to appoint legal representatives who will receive legal documents while they are abroad; be able to pay a cash bond of P2 million; and they must call or personally report to PH embassies once they arrive in their countries of destination.
"Once they are able to comply with these conditions, they can leave already," said Marquez.
Several news reports showed an Arroyo staff bring the bond to Supreme Court.
Those who voted in favor of the TRO are the following: Chief Justice Renato Corona, Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, and Jose Perez, said Marquez.
Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, Assoc. Justices Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, & Jose Mendoza meanwhile opposed the Arroyo couple's plea to lift the TRO.
Two other justice were not present, Marquez added.
Marquez said judges in favor of the TRO saw that the Arroyos "were able to show they were entitled [to their right], or their inclusion in the order would probably work as injustice to them."
Marquez said the TRO may still be lifted anytime and is just "provisional remedy," and does not mean the couple has been acquitted of poll fraud accusations that led DoJ to put them into the watchlist.
Marquez said oral arguments on the case is scheduled on November 22.
Malacanang not happy
Meanwhile, Malacanang appears not too happy with the decision.
“Certainly this is not something we’re hoping for,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
He noted a motion for reconsideration to lift the TRO will be filed.
"We are prepared to defend our position in the oral arguments before the Supreme Court," he said.
But should Arroyo decide not to come back, she won’t have to undergo a court trial over charges against her.
“If she leaves abroad and do not go back, she can’t be tried because she has not been arraigned yet,” Lacierda noted.
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III earlier offered to pay Arroyo’s medical bill and even fly in doctors so she would not have to leave the country.
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