Friday, November 18, 2011

Arroyo's Right to Travel

The right to travel or freedom of movement can be categorized into two areas, right to travel (1) within state territory, and (2) outside state territory. One important distinction between these two categories is that foreign travel, with few exceptions, places the traveller outside the jurisdiction and reach of the state, while domestic travel maintains such jurisdiction.

When a person who is being investigated for possible commission of crime, therefore, attempts to move outside the territory of the state for whatever reasons, the constitutional right to travel must be tempered with the consideration that foreign travel will place that person outside the state's jurisdiction.

Lawyers of Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo claim that since she is presumed innocent until proven guilty, her right to travel must not be impaired. This claim can be easily thwarted by the fact and accepted doctrine that persons facing criminal cases (presumed innocent) may be prohibited from travelling abroad, yet their right to travel within the country remain unimpaired. Her lawyers then argue that Arroyo is not even facing a criminal case yet, that no probable cause has yet been determined that she has committed a crime and should be held on trial.

While the charges against Arroyo are still on preliminary investigation stage, it should not mean that she should be treated in all corners like any innocent citizen. In all other aspects of her right as a person, she may enjoy the status of an innocent citizen. But on her right to travel abroad, it directly affects state jurisdiction over her person which is required in order for investigation and criminal proceedings to be concluded soon enough. In this case, the prosecution arm of the state must be empowered to determine if she should be allowed to leave abroad, outside the state’s jurisdiction. Once the case reaches the court, then the court will now be the one to determine if it will allow Arroyo to travel.

Regarding Arroyo’s justification that she should be allowed to urgently leave the country to seek medical treatment abroad, such urgency was already debunked by government doctors and by her very own doctors who said that Arroyo is expected to fully recover within five to eight months. In other words, her health situation, while unfortunate, is not life-threatening. She is not a walking time bomb.

Truly she deserves the best medical care her money can buy, but this entitlement must also be balanced with the considerations of public interest where the integrity of our criminal justice system is at stake. After all, the law should not be interpreted as na├»ve to the general public sentiment of double standards in our criminal justice system – where the rich can easily devise means to impede criminal prosecution.

Really, the question is: Why is Arroyo such in a hurry to leave the country? If she is truly innocent, then she will have her chance to travel abroad sooner or later. But for now, there is no urgent and cogent reason for her to leave the country.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Philippine Just...tiis System: The Need for Reforms, Fast!

More than a year after becoming a lawyer and practicing litigation, I can say that I need not gain more experience to conclude how inefficient and unreliable our justice system in the Philippines is.

In most court hearings I've attended, lawyers and judges are like automatons blurting out "postponement," "resetting," "warning," "last warning," and "last last warning." There are valid causes of delays, while there are those borne out of an abundance of ineptness, like lawyers taking so many clients that they are unable to attend to all at the necessary time so they ask for postponement or don't mind any motion for postponement by their opponents.

There are few lawyers in the country and there are much much fewer still who are willing to slug it out in the bruising world of litigation practice - the actual court battles and preparation of adversarial pleadings and motions. I can surmise that many lawyers, especially the young and idealistic ones, tend to shy away from litigation or the practice of law in the courts, because what they experience in reality can be far ideal from what they read in their law books and what they learned in law school. What should have been standard case that fall squarely with jurisprudence or positive law, for example, becomes an unpredictable case because some magistrates can be bought or are biased beyond legal confines.

Many courts are also saddled with a very heavy case load. I won't blame a judge for example if he or she would disregard a case too trivial compared to cases where much more are at stake and the parties are high profile. As a result, poor parties don't get the same degree of justice and meticulous attention that courts seem to give to high profile cases or rich parties.

I'm running out of time and I intend to write more about this topic... wait for Part 2.


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