Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is The Right To Travel Absolute?

From the express provisions of the law, there are only three cases where a person is not allowed to travel; these are in the interest of national security, public safety or public health.

“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. – Art III ,Sec 6 Philippine Constitution”

Thus, a leader of a terrorist group may be restrained from leaving or entering a country in the interest of national security. Health officers may also restrict access to contaminated areas and also quarantine those already exposed to the disease sought to be contained. Where there is threat of a volcanic eruption, for example, residents in the affected area may be forced to evacuate and prevented from returning until the danger is over.

As travelers, we have even experienced a similar restriction in one way or the other. We are not allowed to travel or go near Mayon Volcano when it is on high alert of eruption. We are not allowed to travel to Iraq on the height of war (the prohibition was even stamped on our passport). We are even prohibited in going to Malacanang in cases of compromised national situations.

But are these exceptions exclusive? Where do the latest brouhaha about the DOJ not allowing the former president to travel abroad, despite the presence of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court, fit in?

Everyone knows that the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land, the arbiter of what is right and wrong and a neutral defender of the Constitution. So, it was a great deal when a DOJ Secretary defied the orders of a Supreme Court and refused to allow the allegedly ailing former president to leave the country to seek medical treatment.

With what has happened, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, of San Beda Graduate School of Law fears of a constitutional crisis. A constitutional crisis happens when there is conflict between different branches of government. He said that the DOJ Secretary sent a bad signal to the people that court orders can be ignored.

There are instances, however, that a right to travel can be suspended even on cases not specified above. A person facing criminal charges may be restrained by the court from leaving the country or, if abroad, compelled to return. The court has the discretion to grant bail to a person charged of a bailable offense and will usually deny bail if the defendant has a high risk of plight.

If leaving the country, government employees are required to seek clearance from their chief executive/department head before they can travel abroad, even during their approved leave of absence or free time. In fact, immigration officials at the airport will not allow a government employee to board the plane if he does not have a written authority to travel. This is just between you and me but when I was in the government, never did I present any government I.D. nor tell the immigration officer that I work for the government whenever I travel abroad. This saves me the hassles of too much questions from them considering that all my travels abroad are not work-related. Tsaka sino ba naman ako para pigilin nila :)Sometimes, it pays not to be popular.

Also, there are cases decided by the Supreme Court where a travel ban on an individual was upheld. First, the Court has upheld the power of the Presidential Commission on Good Government to issue hold-departure orders against “persons who are known or suspected to be involved” as Marcos cronies even if these powers are not explicitly provided but merely implied from its power “to conduct investigations” and “restrain any act that may render moot and academic, or frustrate or otherwise make ineffectual its efforts. Second, the power of the Labor Secretary to issue a deployment ban citing public safety.

According to former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalanan, these two examples may justify the DOJ Secretary’s action because it is within the DOJ’s power to prosecute crime and punish criminals, which includes keeping those under investigation within reach of Philippine courts. It is a mere extension of its prosecutorial power to subpoena under pain of contempt.

At the moment, since there is a need for an express law on the matter, a house bill is pending before congress which will authorize the Justice secretary to prevent respondents in cases undergoing preliminary investigation to leave the country. The proposed bill will permanently eliminate any more possibility that anyone can question the DOJ’s right to issue travel ban against any accused, irrespective of nationality, in criminal cases in order for the agency to effectively perform its mandated duty for the wellbeing of the country.

But for now, without any express provision, majority has the view that equity and justice must prevail. We just have to wait how this next chapter in our history will unfold.


  1. Dear GMA, ayan oh, naglecture na si Atty Oman, hahhahaa.

  2. Interesting post, Oman, particularly in this day and age! Hope all is well and that you have a great week!


  3. Its political this time... well for me, its just a matter of karma that will keep coming back until the justice to the people or person abused is not serve.

  4. Since the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, had their been laws enacted to make this provision operational? The problem is that, we have the tendencies to speak and to talk too much without first doing our homework. Present Filipino behavior on issues of national significance has become a manifestation on how we have matured as a nation and as a people. And I think, we have failed, at least for the generation of our youth today.

  5. clearly the DOJ defied SC orders. pero ayoko umalis si GMA eh. it's so easy for her camp to say that she's still undergoing treatment once she's outside the Phils and we will have a hard time making her go back and face her cases.

    ANyway, ang gulo lang tlga ng justice system natin. Gutso ko rin sana kampihan yung SC on this matter but they made mistakes din kasi in the past so i honestly don't trust their judgement.

  6. If a person will travel to escape criminal liability then the right to travel should never be absolute.

  7. Ah life! Don't you find it ironic that a rule passed during GMA's administration is the one biting her in the a**? Karma sucks big time.

  8. ang pagbabalik. ito talagang post ang unique sa lawstude.

  9. Now I know what the fuss it's all about. Nakakalito rin kasi eh.

  10. Your PEAR is CONDOLEEZA RICE..that's obvious and we all know who DONG DON ...CASA DONASA..and forever.
    But perhaps what you don't know is that COCEPHON has just dumped a barrel of GLEN E. BONNET.
    And you know what that means...
    LADY RED 50....BINGST.

  11. @ sheng - hello. i guess at some point, this issue surfaced because of her. :)

    @ sylvia k - thank you. our country is facing quite an interesting phase right now. :)

    @ ian - don't you just love it when justice prevails?

  12. @ anonymous - there are lots of dead provisions in our law but i personally think that this is not one of them. there has been cases where this provision was applied by the courts expressly although in some cases, these are applied impliedly. so i guess it is just a matter of clarifying things up just like what the present house bill is intending to supply.

    @ reena - i would like to think that there is still distinction between the collective justices decision and the supreme court as an institution.

  13. @ d fat man - we all wish that.

    @ anonymous - i couldn't agree more. is regret in the offing?

    @ dong ho - trying to mix it up :)

    @ vanessa - i tried to make it as simple as possible.

    @ michelle - huwatttt?

  14. Nosebleed! Gosh, dami ko natutunan dito. And yeah, I don't think anyone's really aware that government employees need to seek clearance before traveling. If this is really the case, sobrang hassle.

  15. maganda ang mag travel sa kahit saan basta may pera lang,hehe.....

    What happen to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the so called LAW OF CAUSE AND short karma

  16. I think it is the nature of Pinoys to be so forgiving. Although we don't forget easily, we tend to forgive even the hardest criminal or the most corrupt official if we saw them in worst medical condition.

  17. what makes the SC not trustworthy is basically a larger percentage is arroyo's appointees. SC's decision could have been valid but it is doubtful first of all because of what i stated.

    tuso talaga sya. yun lang.

  18. GMA should be restrained from traveling just for medication. If she was able to pay the bond for 2M, why should she leave the country if she could hire doctors abroad? This is stupidity if we let GMA escape from her cases. The Supreme Court should have been realistic in solving the issue which is the most important for all Filipinos. Let us stop playing numbers in the SC, let us be conscious!

  19. I used to believe that no one is above the law. But with what is happening, I agree with the comment above that it has become a numbers game in the SC. When would it be country first before utang na loob?

  20. Thanks. I learned a lot from this post. I personally think, they're going all out against delima just to save face.

    From the medical side, there is no reason why she should seek treatment outside our country. Our doctors our capable of managing her. Besides, a lot of ordinary people probably have hypoparathyroidism that remains undetected and they're just walking around.

  21. Nosebleed topic pero basta makasali lang sa comment eh karma karma lang yan.

  22. the right to abode is not absolute as u have explained. i agree much with Fr. Aquino re the constitutional crisis. the executive department should have respected the TRO issued by the SC. Another incongruity now between the executive department and legal department is the rift between corona and p-noy. what a shame of our country. =(

  23. *executive and legal
    >> should be executive and judiciary. sorry =(

  24. @ pinay travel junkie - yup. sobrang hassle indeed. what i think is that they must distinguish between official and personal travels. pag personal travels dapat wala ng clearance. besides, di naman consistent immigration officials natin eh unlike sa ibang bansa. :)

    @ arvin - sad to think na mas mahal pang magtravel kasi sa sarili nating bansa compared to our asean neighbors, pero kaya naman kung i-bubudget talaga.

  25. @ vinzent - i agree, and we love drama and over-acting too :p

    @ bing - supposedly, they have taken an oath of impartiality, but then again, they must endure a reverse position that people will judge them for their every action.

    @ lituyogan - although it is moot and academic now because she has been formally charged, i am still curious about what the SC has to say about the EO with finality.

  26. @ shishi - keep the faith sis. it may not be in this administration but i do they lead us into that direction.

    @ walking on water - thanks a lot doc. i learned a lot from your comment too.

    @ uno - :) thanks.

    @ ivy - on the other hand, their conflict might be healthy because it further establishes/exercises the separation of each department. hinihintay ko na nga lang makigulo legislatura dito eh :) haizz, saya sa 'pinas. :)

  27. CF Corona nais alisin sa pwesto ni PNOY pra muling baliktarin ang negative ruling ng SC sa kaso ng Hacienda Luisita. Yan c PNOY walang malasakit sa mga magsasaka.

  28. Why accused with criminal case with hold departure order escaped and went to oman, bkt nkalusot s immigration,d b sya pwedeng pabalikin dito?