Press Release
November 24, 2011


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago today filed Senate Bill No. 3069, which mandates the Department of Justice to apply with the Regional Trial Court for the issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) against an accused person under preliminary investigation.

If approved by Congress, the measure will, in effect, nullify DOJ Circular No. 41, and remove from the Secretary of Justice the power to issue HDOs against persons under investigation for alleged crimes committed.

"DOJ Circular No. 41, which allows the Secretary of Justice to motu proprio restrict a person's constitutional right to travel upon the filing of a criminal complaint, opens the doors for political harassment and oppression," Santiago said. "At the same time, we cannot allow an accused to simply flout the rule of law and evade prosecution by the simple expedient of flying to another country once charges are brought against him or her."

According to Santiago, courts already possess the inherent power to issue HDOs. "This power is indispensable in upholding the integrity of our institutions and ensuring that our people maintain faith and respect for the rule of law. Absent such power, our laws may be ignored with impunity and public safety compromised by an accused who can simply go to another country to evade prosecution and arrest."

"By requiring the DOJ to apply to the courts for the issuance of an HDO, the bill reconciles the DOJ's need to effectively carry out its prosecutorial functions with the constitutional guarantee of the right to travel," Santiago said.

Under Santiago's bill, no HDO shall be granted without hearing and prior notice to the person subject of the HDO. The only exception is when the person is a flight risk and such flight may result either in a miscarriage of justice, or prejudice against national security, public safety, or public health. In such cases, the court can issue a temporary HDO effective for 30 days from service on the person sought to be held. Within the 30-day period, the court shall require the said person to explain why a permanent HDO should not be granted. However, if the HDO is not resolved within the said period, the temporary HDO will be automatically lifted.

Santiago's bill enumerates other instances when the HDO may be lifted or cancelled, such as when the accused has been allowed to leave the country during the pendency of the case; has been acquitted of the charge; or when the civil, labor, or administrative case against an alien subject of the HDO has been dismissed.

"A person subject of the HDO, who, for some exceptional reason, needs to leave the country, may also apply for an Allow Departure Order (ADO) with the court issuing the HDO," Santiago added.

The senator also clarified that a person prevented from leaving the country because his or her name appears to be the same as the one appearing in the HDO, may file an application with the court, asking for a certification that he or she is not the same person as the one whose name appears in the HDO.

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