The magistrates of the Court of Appeals who ordered the release of the six Ilocos Norte officials detained by the House of Representatives for contempt on Monday stood pat on their decision despite threats from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that he would file disbarment case against them and to abolish the appellate court.
Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, one of the three members of the CA Fourth Division handling the case, said they are standing by their writ of habeas corpus and show cause order against House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali.
“What we did was our duty,” he said, when asked about Alvarez’s threat to abolish the CA.
“If we falter because of some threats, that would show our weakness as magistrates.And as I have said a while ago, let justice be done though the heavens fall. If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court,” said Cruz, who is set to face the Judicial and Bar Council to apply for a vacancy in the Supreme Court to be left by the retirement of Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes next month.
Cruz said he would also welcome any disbarment case that the Speaker is reportedly planning against them. He explained that they issued the writ “to determine really if the detention was legal.”
“We want the bodies to be presented to the court and the person who is detaining them, and determine whether it is legal. Because if it is legal, we will dismiss the petition,” he said.
As for the release order, he said “that was pursuant to a case, Enrile vs Salazar wherein persons subject of writ of habeas corpus, while the merits are being determined can be released on bail.”
The other two members of the CA division are Associate Justices Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela.
Another CA magistrate who also faced the JBC yesterday, Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, defended her colleagues in the appellate court from attacks by the House leadership.
“He (Alvarez) is very emotional. He must know the limits of his power,” she said.
The habeas corpus case involves the petition 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 a probe into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.
The CA has ordered Detabali to present the six petitioners, but the House rejected the service of the writ three times. It also issued a show cause order requiring Detabali to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for defying the order and twice rejecting the service of the CA ruling.
House officials refused to accept the orders and insisted that they were invalid because the appellate court has no jurisdiction over the matter.