Imee Marcos says ‘unfair’ to call use of tobacco funds ‘highly irregular’
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos wrote to the House of Representatives on Tuesday to deny that P66.45 million in tobacco funds have been misused, calling it “unfair and unwarranted” to make such a judgment even before a hearing on the issue could be started.
In a letter dated May 15, 2917, Marcos wrote to the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability lamenting that the House resolution calling for an inquiry in aid of legislation called the use of tobacco funds “highly irregular.”
It was Rep. Rudy Fariñas, the majority leader, who filed House Resolution 882 calling for a House investigation of the Ilocos Norte provincial government’s use of the excise taxes on locally-produced Virginia-type cigarettes.
Fariñas is on his last term in Congress, raising speculations that he would challenge Marcos’s anointed one in the provincial capitol. Marcos is on her last term as governor.
The Fariñas and Marcos clans had been in a love-hate alliance that has rocked the political atmosphere of Ilocos Norte every elections.
The Marcoses cut ties with the Fariñases in 2015, reportedly due to political differences.
In calling for the probe, Fariñas alleged he received cash advances that P66.45 million tobacco funds were used to purchase minicabs, buses, and minitrucks for the different Ilocos Norte municipalities, even though the law Republic Act 7171 that imposed the tax on Virginia cigarettes states that the excise tax should be used for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects benefitting the tobacco farmers.
Fariñas alleged the purchases were done without public bidding, constituting violations of the procurement law and the government auditing code.
Marcos said it would not be proper for the committee to investigate Ilocos Norte’s use of the tobacco funds when other provinces like Abra, Ilocos Sur and La Union were also beneficiaries of the tobacco excise tax.
She also lamented that the resolution already called the purchase of motor vehicles “highly irregular” prior to conducting a hearing.
“With due respect, the assertion is unfair and unwarranted. Any inquiry in aid of legislation is, first and foremost, intended to gather information. To declare irregularity even before an inquiry is conducted is lamentably irresponsible,” Marcos said.
Marcos said there was nothing irregular in the purchase because it was intended to improve transport to increase productivity, market produce and access.
Marcos said the highly charged words used in the House Resolution that called the purchase irregular reek of ”bias and oppression” which may be used for “political persecution.”
“It is in the spirit of fairness that I sincerely request the Committee on Good Government and Accountability to address these legitimate concerns, so that the integrity of the proceedings, and the legislature itself… is not diminished by a haphazard and unconstitutional exercise of congressional authority,” Marcos said. /atm
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