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Farmers decry House bias vs ‘Ilocos Six’

TWO farmers groups in Ilocos Norte denounced what they described as “apparent unfairness and opportunism” of the ongoing legislative inquiry in the House of Representatives into the alleged misuse of the province’s tobacco excise funds, as they rallied behind embattled Gov. Imee Marcos.

This came as the Philippine Constitution Association appealed to the Supreme Court to intervene in the ongoing conflict between the Court of Appeals and the House of Representatives over the case of six Ilocos Norte provincial officials being detained by lawmakers for more than a month now for contempt.

In separate resolutions, the Ilocos Norte Federation of Mango Producers Associations and Ilocos Norte Federation of Vegetable Growers Associations condemned the “insufferable and biased acts” of the House committee on good government and public accountability as regards to the ongoing investigation of the provincial tobacco funds.

The mango growers group said the power of legislative inquiry as provided under the Constitution does not give Congress the power to deprive any citizen of constitutionally vested rights to freedom of movement, or the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

“In conducting the investigation to the alleged misuse of the tobacco funds of Ilocos Norte, the [House] committee . . . failed to observe the necessary constitutional rights of Gov. Imee R. Marcos and the six Ilocos Norte officials,” the vegetable farmers, led by their president Ricardo Tolentino, said in a resolution.

They said the proceedings in the House have ceased to be in aid of legislation because they have become politically tainted.

They added that the accuser in the House was acting as an investigator, prosecutor and judge.

“If the House committee presses on the detention of . . . Governor Imee Marcos, the association is resolved to seek the House to detain with her all of the members of the Mango Growers Association in order to demonstrate our support for her against this sinister proceedings,” the resolution said.

The vegetable farmers led by its president Wilfredo Valdez echoed the sentiments of the mango growers, saying they were offended by the presentation to the media of a detention cell being prepared for Marcos.

The six Ilocos Norte provincial officials

Philconsa, meanwhile, urged the Supreme Court to intervene in the test of wills between the House and the Court of Appeals.

In a statement over the weekend, Philconsa asked the Court to act on the letter of the three CA justices seeking advisory opinion on the “unexpected, unorthodox reaction” of the House on the writ of habeas corpus they issued in favor of the six Ilocos Norte officials.

Through its chairman Manuel Lazaro and president Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the Philconsa urged the Court to consider the letter as an administrative matter and issue a decision to resolve the conflict.

“This is the judicial process/vehicle to enable the Supreme Court [to] resolve the clashing postures, in order to avert a constitutional crisis,” the group said.

Philconsa cited the mandate of the Court under the Constitution “as the final arbiter of constitutional questions/legal controversies” and its duty to “interpret and allocate the jurisdictional boundaries of the rights and obligations of the parties involved when a writ of habeas corpus is issued.”

The group believes that the House would honor and abide by the Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

“In the remote event the House still refuses to honor and execute the resolution or decision of the Supreme Court in the administrative matter, the President shall undoubtedly execute or implement the decision of the Supreme Court, as mandated by his oath of office to preserve and defend the Constitution and execute its laws,” Philconsa said.

The three magistrates in the CA special fourth division that ordered the release of the so-called “Ilocos Six”—Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio—sought guidance from the Supreme Court after the House refused to honor their orders, including the immediate release of the Ilocos Norte officials and instead issued a show cause order against them.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. earlier issued a statement calling on the House leaders to recall the show cause order and instead consider legal remedies under the Rules of Court in questioning the CA orders, including a possible petition before the Supreme Court.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Philippine Bar Association have also issued similar statements.

The CA earlier 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 alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.

It also issued a show cause order requiring House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for the defying the order and twice rejecting the service of the CA ruling. 

However, the House officials refused to accept the orders and insisted that they were invalid because the appellate court has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Instead, the House committee issued a show cause order requiring the CA justices to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for ordering the release of the so-called Ilocos Six.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also earlier threatened to abolish the CA and disbar the three justices in the CA division that issued the orders. 

Topics: House of Representatives , Tobacco excise funds , Gov. Imee Marcos , Philippine Constitution Association , Supreme Court , Court of Appeals , Mango growers group , Ilocos Six
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