On DOST scholars’ right to travel abroad – a clarification
Can current DOST scholars travel abroad without seeking clearance from the BI? Not so fast!
For a couple of weeks now, a soft copy of a memorandum purportedly signed by Mario Montejo, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary last January 12 has been circulating via social networking site Facebook. Addressed to DOST councils and agencies, the memo pertains to the temporary lifting of the watch list orders (WLO) against the agency’s scholars “who are still under contractual obligation with the Philippine government.” Here’s the full text of the memo:
This has reference to the attached letter of Atty. Siegfred B. Mison, Acting Associate Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) dated December 15, 2011 regarding the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court against the Department of Justice on the Watchlist Orders (WLO).
Consequently, effective January 1, 2012, the WLO against DOST scholars who are still under contractual obligation with the Philippine Government was lifted.
Please be informed that the terms and conditions of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the BI is being discussed to put back in place the WLO on scholars, a mechanism that help us in monitoring/tracking our scholars. We hope to execute this MOA soonest.
In the meantime, the WLO of your monitored DOST scholars has been lifted pending the execution of the MOA.
This is a clear departure from the old standard operating procedure (SOP) for those planning to travel overseas. In order to obtain a clearance, a scholar must inform the department about his or her travel plans, inclusive dates, and the reason for travelling. Then, the traveling scholar must post a bond “equivalent to the total financial assistance (he or she) have received as of the date just prior to (his or her) travel plus 12% interest.” That is only when DOST would issue a letter endorsing the scholar to the Bureau of Immigration for the final clearance.
The implication of the aforementioned DOST memo is clear: scholars need not go through this labyrinth of a process just to go abroad anymore. Or so it seems. But before going into that, first things first. How did the case reach the Supreme Court (to the point where they actually issued a TRO)? In order for cases to be considered “ripe for judicial determination,” a “justiciable controversy” must exist. In other words, the SC won’t act on this issue unless someone from the ranks of DOST scholars comes forward to actually file a complaint.
That being said, I wanted to know the background of this case first before writing about it. I need to read the full text of the said SC TRO. I went to the Supreme Court website, and despite typing words such as “Department of Science and Technology,” “Mario Montejo,” “DOST scholars,” among others, I wasn’t able to find it. Last week, I personally visited to the SC Public Information Office, and when I inquired, I was asked for the case number. Two days after, I called the DOST-SEI hotline to clarify this matter.
I was told by Ms Celsa Tulalian, the person managing the scholars’ database, that a number of DOST beneficiaries had been barred from travelling by airport authorities (remember Gloria Arroyo?) the past two weeks since they don’t have the necessary clearance from the BI to do so. She explained to me that in the absence of a memorandum of agreement between DOST and BI concerning the matter, scholars must still abide by the old SOP to avoid experiencing the same fate. She also noted that the sharing of the DOST memo pictured above is premature and unauthorized.
Ms Tulalian can be reached during weekdays at 8371333 for any questions. If you have a copy of the said TRO, please email me at email@example.com.
UPDATE: I have reached Mr. Hilbert Libres, the original uploader of the abovementioned DOST memo on Facebook. Here’s what he wrote:
“I do respect DOST’s comment on the memo. But personally, I don’t buy it. It’s a memo duly signed by the DOST secretary. And that signify its valid. I know an appeal has been made, but that doesn’t make the memo invalid. It’s clear in the letter that the lift is only temporary. And it also states an appeal is being processed. And they say the memo is not final? -This negates what’s stated in the letter. C’mon, DOST scholars are not stupid. Or am I?
I also understand why they are restricting the circulation of this memo. It stirs up the interest of DOST scholars to go out of the country before they complete their service. I just think DOST-SEI was not ready to handle this issue. Although, I still strongly suggested to all my DOST scholar friends to secure clearance from the agency than risking to pass through immigration just purely relying on the issued memo.“