FORMER president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo while passing through an airport scanner while being escorted by military and national security personnel in this Balita Media file photo. Reports said Mike Arroyo has left the Philippines for Hong Kong for a "medical check-up" despite a supposed hold order for his departure.

BI ordered to probe Mike Arroyo’s departure

MANILA, Aug 5 (Mabuhay) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to probe the circumstances behind former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo’s departure for Hong Kong over the weekend for medical checkup.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she directed BI Commissioner Ricardo David to “dig deeper” into Arroyo’s departure last July 31st following the discovery that there is no record for “Jose Miguel Arroyo” in the database of the immigration bureau.

De Lima said that once verified that Arroyo did not go through the usual processing of departing passengers,then somebody must have aided him.

“Nakapagtataka, wala sya sa BI database. Ang ibig sabihin, hindi dumaan, apparently, sa immigration. Somebody else facilitated the processing of the documents kaya nagkaganoon,” de Lima said.

“Si Commissioner David na mismo, even without me [first] telling him, sinabi na niya na pinapa-imbestiga na niya, pinapa-trace niya sino yung nag-assist, sino yung nag-facilitate, sino yung nag-process at hindi nag-reflect sa database,” she added.

The BI was able to confirm Arroyo left last Sunday via commercial flight, de Lima said.

“BI doublechecked and nalaman nga nila through the flight manifest and the boarding pass [of] Cathay Pacific na lumabas nga pala noong July 31,” she said.

The justice chief now wants to find out if BI personnel merely committed a lapse in judgment.

“Sabi ko can you dig deeper, can you look into that, alamin natin ano ba yan – lapse lang ba yan ng mga BI personnel or sinadya ba yan or is there anything more to it,” de Lima said.

Mike Arroyo’s lawyer presents proof

The legal counsel of the former First Gentleman showed ABS-CBN documents of Arroyo enplaning for Hong Kong last Sunday, disproving claims by De Lima that there were no records of his departure.

Inocencio Ferrer sent scanned copies of Arroyo’s Cathay Pacific luggage tag, visa on arrival at Hong Kong, receipts for the travel tax and the airport user’s charge.

Mr. Arroyo also presented a leaf of his passport, showing he was stamped on departure July 31 and arrival in Hong Kong.

De Lima confirmed reports that the BI was able to later locate a “Jose Miguel Aroyo” entry in the immigration bureau’s departures database, but wondered why such a “high profile” personality – if this record was of the former first gentleman – was erroneously recorded.

“Lalo na high profile yan, bakit nagkakamali kung saka sakali? It’s a cause for concern. But dapat imbestigahan pa rin and let’s wait for the results of the investigation. Let’s not [draw] any conclusion at this point, hintayin na muna natin ang resulta ng imbestigasyon,” she said.

While she may give consideration to VIP’s with medical conditions and allow them assistance through immigration personnel, de Lima stressed everybody has to be recorded in the immigration database.

“Ako siguro maiintindihan ko kung yung mga VIP ay hindi na pumipila lalo na kung, let’s say, may health problem, like what they’re saying na nagpapacheckup siya (Mr. Arroyo) sa Hong Kong. Pero ang hindi ko maintindihan is that yung mga papel dapat dumadaan yan, pinapa-process yan, at kung dumadaan eh di dapat nasa database yan. So ano ito?” she said.

Watch list order came too late?

De Lima meantime lashed back at critics who say her issuance of a watch list order (WLO) Thursday against Mr. Arroyo came too late in the day since the former first gentleman was already able to exit the country.

She stressed she cannot just “arbitrarily exercise” her authority to issue WLO’s.

“I beg to disagree na late on my part. I received the official request of the Senate yesterday morning. Hindi ang DOJ ang nag-iimbestiga ngayon, as of the moment, noong issue ng [Philipine National Police] choppers. It’s the Senate, so ang Senate talaga ang mag-rerequest dapat. They did that, but yesterday morning lang,” she said.

“I cannot just arbitrarily exercise my motu proprio powers. Naki-criticize na nga ako paminsan minsan ‘pag nag-iissue ako ng watch list order,” she added.

De Lima also pointed out that Arroyo was already out of the country even before his name was implicated in a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on the controversial sale of 2 used Robinson R44 Raven1 helicopters as brand new to the PNP in 2009 through Manila Aerospace Products Trading.

“Kailan ba parang na-implicate siya? Hindi ba yung mayroong nagturo kay FG noong Tuesday lang ‘di ba? And at that time wala pang request,” she said.

De Lima issued watch list order no. 2011-410 dated August 4, 2011 against Mr. Arroyo and his reported secretary, Rowena del Rosario.

The order said the issuance was on the basis of a formal request dated August 3, 2011 by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III.

While he vehemently opposed the WLO for “violating his constitutional right to travel,” Mr. Arroyo, assured he will be flying back from Hong Kong on August 8.

Watch list order for CGMA still under study

De Lima meantime said she continues to mull the issuance of a WLO for former President now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is facing several plunder charges before the DOJ.

“There are cases [against Mrs. Arroyo]  dito sa amin sa DOJ under preliminary investigation, so I can exercise my motu proprio powers,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo was slapped with separate plunder complaints before the justice department for the alleged illegal sale of the old Iloilo airport, and alleged misuse and diversion of over P550-million in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds and some P1.6-billion worth of fertilizer funds for her presidential campaign in 2004.  (MNS) ■