Ilocos Six: Governor joins the fray

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ILOCOS Norte Gov. Imee Marcos said Sunday she was willing to cooperate with the House committee on good government and public accountability in its probe into Ilocos Norte’s allegedly illegal purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million that came from its share of tobacco excise taxes.

But Marcos lamented the continued detention of six provincial government employees who were cited for contempt for allegedly refusing to answer questions about the inquiry.

‘‘I have expressed my willingness to cooperate with the Committee on Good Government on the faith that the committee would conduct its current inquiry in accordance with the letter and spirit of Sec. 21, Art. VI of the Constitution―that the inquiry is in aid of legislation and that the rights of persons appearing therein are protected, Marcos said in a statement released by her lawyer, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.

Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos

She made her statement even as the same committee suggested on Sunday to put up a permanent detention facility in Congress to  accommodate even high-profile and influential personalities, such as the three justices of the Court of Appeals who ordered the release of the so-called ‘‘Ilocos Six.’’

“That is why I’m meeting Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez tomorrow. I have already raised it to Representative Rodolfo Fariñas [of Ilocos Norte] that we should construct a detention area inside Congress,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, the chairman of the committee.

He warned that more resource persons would be arrested if they ignored summonses and refused to attend the congressional inquiry.

Marcos said she had sent two letters to Pimentel’s committee in which she asked to be clarified about the invitation of the House for her to attend the probe as a resource person. 

‘‘Even as those letters did not merit any response from the Committee, my commitment to cooperate on constitutional grounds has not changed, Marcos said.

Alvarez on Sunday said Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno could be impeached if she had ordered three Court of Appeals judges to ignore Congress’ show-cause order asking why they must not be cited for contempt.

He said he had information that Sereno ordered the appellate court to defy the show-cause order.

Alvarez earlier signed a subpoena to compel Marcos to attend the July 25 resumption of the congressional probe. 

Pimentel said Marcos’ failure to attend the scheduled committee hearing this month would be enough ground for her to be cited in contempt.

Marcos insisted that the constitutional rights of the people invited to attend House inquiries must still be respected. 

She said the judiciary and not Congress was the right body to prosecute as she lamented the fate of the provincial employees, collectively known as the Ilocos Six, who have been detained for more than a month.

‘‘As a former legislator, I also know that the power of legislative inquiry does not give Congress the power to deprive any citizen of constitutionally vested rights such as the rights to freedom of movement and to be presumed innocent until you are proven guilty,” Marcos said. 

“Neither does it vest Congress the power to act as a prosecutorial or judicial body that determines the innocence or guilt of anyone for any charge of misconduct. The judicial system, not Congress, is constitutionally empowered to do so.

“Were Congress to act as investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one, would not the principle of separation of powers be subverted by legislative tyranny?”

Marcos also slammed the lawmakers who had been threatening to have her arrested if she failed to attend the probe.

“The public threats directed to me on the certainty of my arrest and detention is extremely intimidating but unnecessary,” Marcos said. 

“I am already extremely intimidated by the manner the Ilocos Six were made to suffer the physical strain and mental torture of prolonged detention. 

The six Ilocos Norte employees had asked the Court of Appeals to resolve their habeas corpus case immediately and declare their continued detention illegal and a form of torture.

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