By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star)
Photo: The House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability is investigating the involvement of six officials of Ilocos Norte in the allegedly anomalous purchase of vehicles worth P66.45 million. The House leadership has detained them since May 29. File
MANILA, Philippines - The six detained Ilocos Norte officials may be freed tomorrow if they will answer questions from lawmakers, who at the same time warned that Gov. Imee Marcos could be “arrested if she defies the subpoena.”
The House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability is investigating the involvement of six officials of Ilocos Norte in the allegedly anomalous purchase of vehicles worth P66.45 million. The House leadership has detained them since May 29.
The probe was pushed by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, a former governor of Ilocos Norte and political rival of the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
“We will set them free right away, once they decide to tell the truth about the anomaly. We are really hoping they will change their minds by Tuesday, both for their sake and for the sake of public interest,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chair of the committee.
“They’ve actually refused to be served notices, so we may have to bodily carry them to the (third) hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday,” he added.
Pimentel also warned that the committee is “absolutely prepared” to have Governor Marcos “arrested if she defies the subpoena.”
The daughter of the dictator was given until July 25 to comply.
“What we issued was a subpoena and a show cause order why she should not be cited in contempt if she fails to attend the July 25 hearing,” Pimentel said. “Ms. Marcos has not attended any hearing yet, invoking medical reasons.
“We do not want to embarrass the governor. However, if she forces our hand, of course we are ready to do a Ronnie Dayan on her, in accordance with House rules,” he added, referring to detained Sen. Leila de Lima’s alleged bagman and confessed lover.
Former first lady Imelda Marcos yesterday appealed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Fariñas and Pimentel to allow the release of the provincial employees for humanitarian reasons.
“I urge Speaker to allow the release of the six employees on my own recognizance. Since they are also my constituents, I am making this appeal to the House leadership to release them for humanitarian reasons,” she said in a statement.
The mother of Governor Marcos made the plea after the House leadership defied the Court of Appeals order compelling them to release the six officials based on the petition for habeas corpus and granting them bail, even if no charges have been filed against them.
The elder Marcos also promised that she would ensure the attendance of the six employees whenever their presence is required by the House committee in its ongoing legislative inquiry.
“I will formally write the Speaker requesting the release of the Ilocos employees on my own recognizance, and with a written promise signed by them committing that they will show up for future appearances and hearings of the House committee,” Mrs. Marcos said.
She lamented that based on her visits, the six provincial officials were made to endure miserable conditions in their detention cell despite their need of medical attention due to age and pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Mrs. Marcos also cited the lack of food, inadequate ventilation facility due to a dilapidated air-conditioning unit, and lack of sleeping mattresses, which she provided.
Her only son, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – who was also a governor like Fariñas and Imee – recently visited the six employees. He described their continued detention as “cruel” and vowed to extend all the assistance they need.
“Whatever case that needs to be filed then we will answer that in court… In the meantime, this is a cruel and unusual ang nangyayari (development),” Mr. Marcos told reporters.
Mrs. Marcos said that her option may be considered as a “win-win solution” for the House leadership to avoid legal confrontation with the CA that earlier ordered the immediate release of the six provincial officials.
180 lawmakers sign to disbar CA justices
But Alvarez still spearheaded a move that aims to disbar the three CA justices – Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz of the Special 4th Division and Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Valenzuela – who ordered the House committee to release the six Ilocos Norte officials.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, a former CA magistrate, said the House has so far gathered 180 signatures, out of its 294 members, for a draft resolution asking the Supreme Court to disbar the three CA justices.
Alvarez, Fariñas, Pimentel, Veloso and others asked the CA to stop acting like the Supreme Court, a co-equal of Congress.
“There’s no grave abuse of authority on the part of the House of Representatives. In fact, Speaker Alvarez is right that if we have this kind of justices, we might as well abolish the CA,” Veloso said in an interview with dzBB yesterday.
“Gross ignorance of the law is one of the grounds to dismiss a judge. It is also a ground to disbar a member of the bar. The problem with the CA is that it is acting as if it is the SC,” he added.
He also reminded that the CA is just a creation of Congress as there is a law that Congress can repeal anytime, hence the House and the appellate court do not stand on equal footing. It is the SC that is the co-equal branch of the legislative chamber.
“Mababa masyado ang CA. Gusto ko mang bigyan ng mas mataas na pedestal ang Court of Appeals dahil nanggaling ako doon, unfortunately, malayo iyan sa Constitution (The CA stands on a far lower position. Even if I want to place the CA on a higher pedestal because I came from there, unfortunately, that departs from the Constitution),” Veloso said.
“Imagine kung pababayaan natin ito, hindi na pupuwedeng mag-legislative inquiry ang Senado at saka House (Imagine if we will allow this, the Senate and the House cannot anymore perform a legislative inquiry) because all they have to do is run to the CA and file a petition for writ of habeas corpus,” he added.