THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday declared Department of Justice (DOJ) Circular 41 as unconstitutional as it impairs the right of an individual to travel as guaranteed under the Constitution.
At a news briefing held in Baguio City where the magistrates are holding their yearly summer session, SC Spokesman Theodore O. Te said in light of the ruling, all issuances released 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 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.
Article III, Section 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 M. de Lima in imposing a travel ban against former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel Arroyo, pending the resolutions of the plunder and electoral sabotage charges filed against them. This was despite the Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) 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 ADO on the basis of DOJ Circular 41.
In November 2011 airport immigration officials prevented the Arroyo couple and several aides from leaving the country upon the directive of de Lima despite their being 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 covers Mr. Arroyo’s corespondents in the electoral sabotage case namely former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, former Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer, former Justice Secretary Alberto C. Agra, former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio, Maguindanao official Nori Unas, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., and Lintang Bedol.
In the case of Genuino, the HDO covers his children Erwin Sheryl Genuino. Aside from violating Article III, Section 6, the petitioners argued that the circular gives the justice secretary an “unbridled discretion” in issuing WLO and HDO.
The petitioners said Section 6, Article III of the Constitution, explicitly states that the right to travel shall not be impaired except “in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
However, the petitioners noted that none of the said limitations was cited by de Lima in turning down Mrs. Arroyo’s plea to be allowed to travel and seek medical treatment for her rare bone disease.