High court backs CA on ‘Ilocos 6’

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THE Supreme Court is supporting the Court of Appeals in its clash with the House of Representatives over the habeas corpus case of six Ilocos Norte provincial officials who have been detained for more than a month now by lawmakers for contempt.

Court spokesman Theodore Te said the joint statement earlier issued by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. represents the position of other magistrates and the Supreme Court as an institution.

“Yes,” Te said, when asked if the Supreme Court backs the Court of Appeals after the House of Representatives threatened to detain CA justices for ordering the House to release the six Ilocos Norte employees.

“The statement [dated June 21] says it all,” Te said in a text message.

House leaders earlier threatened to find the CA justices in contempt and order them detained like the six Ilocos Norte employees.

The House has defied orders from the CA several times, including the order to release the Ilocos provincial employees.

In the statement issued last June 21, Sereno and Reyes asked the House committee on good governance and public accountability to recall its show cause order on Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio of the CA special fourth division that ordered the release of the so-called “Ilocos Six.”

Citing “implications on separation of powers and judicial independence” of the House order, the heads of the judiciary suggested that the lawmakers instead avail of remedies under the Rules of Court in questioning the CA orders.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Philippine Bar Association and constitutional law experts and law deans Pacifico Agabin and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino have also made similar calls for the House to recall the show cause order.

The show cause order required the CA justices to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial officials being detained for contempt in connection to their probe on alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.

On Monday, retiring Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes has called on his colleagues in the SC to continue the fight for judicial independence.

“Protect the Supreme Court from unsavory meddling of those who are trying to taint its integrity,” Reyes said in his speech during his last flag-raising ceremony.

While he did not name the individuals attacking the judiciary, Reyes made the call amid the clash between the CA and House and after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez warned of possible impeachment against Chief Justice Sereno after she reportedly met with CA justices and ordered them to defy the House’s show cause order against the three magistrates.

The CA has ordered the release of Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairperson; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Eden Battulayan, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Encarnacion Gaor, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Genedine Jambaro, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; and Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer.

They have been detained since May 29 after being cited in contempt by the House committee on good government and public accountability during its probe into the use of P66.45 million in tobacco excise funds of the province to buy motor vehicles.

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