Political insurance or human rights?

According to PhilStar, in an 8-5 vote, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) watchlist order (WLO) against former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. As I mentioned last week, cynics might suspect the justices of simply protecting their patron. However, freedom travel is an human right protected by the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (remember the refusniks in the former U.S.S.R.).

For politicians, this dual nature of the justice system presents a delightful irony. The very way courts act to protect former political leaders necessitates their invoking constitutional rights. Thus, the very political leaders who often violated their citizens’ human rights become amongst the first to hide behind them when out of power. In political science, we’d call this a severe case of observational equivalence – when we can’t tell whether the court is acting in good faith or with political motives.

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