House committee summons Imee Marcos for failure to attend hearings
The House of Representatives issued a subpoena against Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos after the latter snubbed several committee hearings that investigate the provincial government’s alleged misuse of tobacco funds.
The committee on good government and public accountability, chaired by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, unanimously approved the motion of Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas to issue a subpoena against the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for repeatedly failing to attend the committee hearings.
Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Bayan member Vicente Lazo asked the committee to read Marcos’ letter about her absence in the hearing, but the committee did not agree because he was not under oath.
“It will pollute and contaminate our records because it’s not under oath and you know that,” Fariñas said.
By issuing a subpoena, the House is obliging Marcos to appear before the hearing otherwise she will be cited in contempt.
The House also cited in contempt and thus ordered detained at the House the following provincial government officials – Engineer Pedro Agcaoili, Chairman ng Bids and Awards Committee and head of the Provincial Planning and Development Office; Eden Battulayan, Accountant 4 of the Provincial Accounting Office; and Provincial Budget Officer Evangeline Tabulog.
Fariñas moved for them to be cited in contempt after they claimed they forgot about the transactions even though these were just made in 2011.
Earlier, the committee also cited in contempt the following officials – treasurer Josephine Calajete; Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro, staff of Office of the Provincial Treasurer; Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer; Eden Battulayan, provincial accounting office accountant IV; Pedro Agcaoili of the provincial planning and development office, and general services officer Joseph Castro.
In a letter to the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability dated May 15, 2017, Marcos described as “unfair” a House resolution that called the use of tobacco funds as “highly irregular” even before a hearing had started.
It was Fariñas who filed House Resolution 882 calling for a House investigation into Ilocos Norte 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 candidate in the provincial capitol. Marcos is on her last term as governor.
The clans of Fariñas and Marcos had been in a “love-hate alliance” for years, making the political atmosphere in Ilocos Norte very intense every election period.
The Marcoses cut ties with the Fariñases in 2015, reportedly due to political differences.
In calling for the probe, Fariñas alleged that about 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 mobility that will eventually 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. JPV
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