THE House committee on good government on Tuesday ordered the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial government officers who were detained for almost two months at the Batasang Pambansa for refusing to cooperate in its hearing on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco excise tax funds.
Ilocos Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas moved for the release of six officers—known as the “Ilocos Six”—after they “regained their memory” during the latest hearing.
Ordered released were Ilocos Norte financial officers Pedro Agcaoili, Evangeline Tabulog, Josephine Calajate, Eden Battulayan, Genedine Jambaro, and Encarnacion Gaor.
Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the release of the Ilocos Six did not mean that his panel would end its inquiry.
“I want to make it clear that the release of the six officials does not mean that we are already terminating the proceedings,” he said in a press conference after the hearing.
He said Ilocos Norte Imee Marcos would be invited again to the next hearingon Aug. 9.
Marcos on Tuesday faced lawmakers at a congressional probe into the provincial capitol’s alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of tobacco excise funds from 2011 to 2012 after they threatened to detain her if she refuses to testify.
“The two transactions were direct contracting. Direct contracting is something that the Bids and Awards Committee recommended that we had to resort to because there was only a single supplier that can comply with the requirements,” she said.
Marcos said only Foton had brand new, diesel-powered mini-trucks with the right specifications.
“The most important thing is that the government did not lose money,” Marcos said.
Marcos attended the hearing accompanied by her mother, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
During the hearing, Marcos apologized before the panel over her statement that “yellow forces” offered P100 million to ensure her detention at the House.
“I apologize and withdraw the statement. It is my mere suspicion and even if there was a source, I withdraw my accusation,” Marcos said as she was pressed by Fariñas to reveal her source on the matter.
“I apologize to the congressmen if this is offensive…,” she said.
Marcos said she was happy her employees can finally go home to their families after 55 days in detention even as she said “there was no anomaly” and “no corruption” in all transactions on the purchases of motor vehicles.
The six Ilocos Norte employees admitted Tuesday they made the transactions involving the alleged anomalous procurement of the provincial government”s 115 vehicles using tobacco excise tax funds.
The House committee on good government and public accountability has been investigating the transactions involving the Ilocos Norte provincial government’s purchase of 115 vehicles worth P66.4 million using the province’s share in the proceeds from excise taxes collected from locally produced Virginia-type cigarettes.
The vehicles–40 multicabs worth P18.6 million, five second hand Hyundai buses costing P15.3 million and 70 mini-trucks priced at P32.5 million—were procured in 2011 and 2012 using cash advances from the tobacco excise tax proceeds instead of undergoing public bidding.
Marcos stayed away from two previous hearings, prompting the committee members to issue her a warning that she would be arrested if she failed to appear again.