A human rights lawyer said former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could be subjected to a new American policy that bars human rights violators from entering the United States.
President issued an edict on August 4 that expanded the grounds for denying entry to certain individuals to enter the US.
Lawyer Arnedo Valera, one of the executive directors of the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), said Arroyo, now a congresswoman of Pampanga, could be allowed into the country as a matter of courtesy as a former Philippine president but "could be subjected to interrogation" for the string of human rights allegations against her.
Valera handles a number of human rights cases, including that of California-based Filipino-American Melissa Roxas who accused the Arroyo administration of kidnapping and torturing her during a medical mission in Tarlac province in May 2009.
In November 2009, a close Arroyo political ally was accused of masterminding one of the worst incidents of political violence in the country when 58 people, including 30 journalists, were gunned down in Maguindanao province.
In March 2007, the US Senate's Foreign Relations committee heard the testimony of Filipino church and labor leaders and human rights activists who accused then President Arroyo of abetting extrajudicial killings that claimed the lives of over 800 churchmen, union leaders, peasants and journalists since she took over in 2001.
As a result of that hearing, the US Congress placed a condition on all subsequent military aid to the Philippines – the first time it's done that to its long-time defense ally – requiring the State Department to certify that the Philippine government abides with human rights.
"America can never be a refuge for human rights violators and plunderers," Valera said.
The White House, in announcing the Obama directive, said the US "did not have an explicit bar to admission on the basis of participation in serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law…This proclamation fills this gap by expanding the grounds for denial of entry into the United States to cover a broader array of recognized violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law."
President Obama also formed an inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board aimed at detecting and raising the alarm against potential atrocities.
There was apparent confusion in Manila over the possibility that Arroyo might seek additional medical treatment in the US or Singapore, attributed to but later denied by her spokesman Raul Lambino, for a damaged spine.
The Pampanga solon is presently covered by an immigration watch list that requires prior government approval before she can leave the country. Mrs. Arroyo herself reportedly ruled out going abroad to dispel the notion she was trying to find a way out of looming suits.
Lambino described as "un-Christian and merciless" the speculation that the former president was only pretending to be sick to evade prosecution.
Valera said President Obama's recent directive covered even people merely accused of serious human rights violations. He explained that Roxas' complaint lodged with the State Department has already been endorsed to the US Attorney's Office in Washington.
Valera predicted that Mrs. Arroyo's alleged victims would be sure to remind the White House about this if she ever decides to go to the US.