THE Supreme Court will deliberate today the petition of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and the six detained provincial officials to stop the House of Representatives from investigating the alleged misuse of the provincial tobacco excise funds.
The Court has included the petition in its regular en banc session Tuesday said is expected to act on relief sought by Marcos, including the issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the House committee on good government and public accountability from investigating the purchase of P66.45 million worth of motor vehicles by the provincial government.
The Court is also expected to act on the plea of the petitioners for the issuance of a writ of amparo to protect the rights of the six provincial officials who have been detained at the House for more than a month.
Earlier, the House refused to obey an order by the Court of Appeals to free the six officials who had filed a habeas corpus petition.
The petitioners—Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairman; 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—also asked the Supreme Court to order their release.
The petition named as respondents House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, House committee chairman and Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel and House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali.
In seeking writ of amparo, petitioners cited the “prolonged interrogations, indefinite detention, coerced confessions, presumption of guilt and torture” employed by respondents in earlier hearings.
The so-called “Ilocos 6” remain in detention at the House for over one month while Marcos “has been threatened with arrest and incarceration in a ‘detention chamber’ by the respondents if she refused to participate in proceedings where her failure to answer questions in a matter satisfactory to respondents will lead to a similar fate of indefinite detention.”
Petitioners also assailed the conduct of the House inquiry, saying it violated their constitutional rights when they subjected them to psychological torture and intimidation.
Marcos earlier lamented that the House inquiry obviously stemmed from her political rivalry with Fariñas in Ilocos Norte as she appealed to lawmakers to spare the “Ilocos Six” and “just bring the fight back to Ilocos Norte.”
She also repeatedly explained that the project was aboveboard, even showing to the public Commission on Audit records as proofs that “the project has fully liquidated and there’s never an anomaly or ghost project.”
Marcos also shared photos of Fariñas even escorting her during the distribution of the vehicles to local farmers, adding that the lawmaker’s son Rodolfo Jr. and nephew Jeff Erickson even requested mini trucks from the questioned project.
She added that there was nothing wrong in procuring the vehicles through a cash advance scheme instead of public bidding, saying such method is a legal and an acceptable option.
Several mayors, vice mayors, barangay chairpersons and leaders of farmers’ groups expressed support for the embattled governor.
They issued separate resolutions denouncing the threat of detention by the House should Marcos fail to appear in the ongoing investigation being conducted by the House committee on the alleged misuse of tobacco funds.
The local executives also urged Marcos not to attend the July 25 hearing of the committee, believing she would not get a fair treatment from the body and will suffer the same fate of the “Ilocos 6” who were cited in contempt and subsequently detained.
Marcos pointed out that the original documents of the transactions involved were taken from the Commission on Audit office inside the provincial capitol by a staff of Fariñas.
Fariñas, known as the main political rival of Marcos in Ilocos Norte, initiated the inquiry through House Resolution No. 882. While he had campaigned and won alongside Marcos in 2010, he was removed from the latter’s “One Ilocos Norte” bid in 2013.
He was also present during the 2011 and 2012 distribution of the vehicles purchased using the province’s tobacco funds.
Marcos also condemned the detention of the “Ilocos Six,” saying lawmakers “should not be law breakers.”
The Ilocos Six have been detained since May 29.
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