Dominador Awiten .
SUPPOSEDLY, we have freedom of movement, and this right to travel is integral to our human right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Our right to travel from place to place, from an origin to a destination of our choice within our national territory includes our right to return to our country when we are abroad. The right includes the liberty to change our place of residence and of work, but that is a subject worthy for a future and different article.
Our Constitution provides 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.”
The domestic or municipal provision reflects the norm of international law under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which is stated that: a citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others, and that a citizen also has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country at any time.
We expect to travel in comfort, with convenience, and to arrive at our destination free from harm to our person. Having that privilege, we achieve a life that is worthwhile and uplifting.
Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas in his book, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, cited the landmark teaching in the Supreme Court decision in Villavicencio versus Lukban (G.R. No. L-14639, March 25, 1919).
The Court said: “If [the City Mayor and the Chief of Police of Manila] can take themselves such power[to cleanse the city of ‘prostitutes’ by sending them to Davao]
, then any official can do the same…And if a ‘prostitute’ could be sent against her wishes and under no law from one locality to another within the country, then officialdom can hold the same club over the head of any citizen.”
In his ponencia, Justice George A. Malcolm framed the issue for adjudication in this succinct manner: “The primary question is — Shall the judiciary permit a government of the men instead of a government of laws to be set up in the Philippine Islands?”
However, the libertarian tradition in our jurisprudence later yielded to the pragmatism of the 1987 Constitution that attempted to do away with the pitfalls of the authoritarianism of the Marcos regime.
Thus, in the highly volatile case of Marcos versus Manglapus (G.R. 88211, October 27, 1989), the ponente, Justice Irene Cortes, justified the President’s ban on the deposed President’s return to the country by pointing out the law “in the totality of executive powers, both stated and unstated in the Constitution, explicit and residual.”
The Marcos remains were eventually allowed to return to our country in keeping with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision that postulated the arrival of the time and circumstances when the return should no longer pose a threat to our national security and the public welfare.
The foregoing musings readily come to mind out of a recent personal experience.
We were about to check-in for our intended travel abroad. At the initial scanner at the gate entrance, my wife was asked to explain the x-ray reading of a substance inside one of our luggage. She said it was a plastic pouch of black rice that she brought for our daughter who was already abroad.
But, at the next scanner right after our check-in and bag drop, since I was the one about to pick-up one of the luggage for hand carrying, one of the security personnel promptly led me to a nearby corner and he at once toted with a stick my palms, then my arms, and my entire body from head to foot.
My wife volunteered to explain what were inside the luggage. She was allowed to open the luggage and showed the contents to be the detergent powder that were intended for our daughter’s use.
A thought came to me after we were set free: I was a person of interest.
Nowadays, with the war against drugs in its full swing, the right against self-incrimination, along with our other liberties, is being trod over roughshod.
I shudder at the ugly thought that I could have been a subject of a “tanim-droga” incriminatory machination.
Before our travel, it was an inspiration for me that I refrained from taking in the medicine prescribed by my dentist for several weeks. The incident could have come out really bad for me had I been determined to be with “drugs” at the time of the “apprehension.”