Fariñas: House has power to detain witnesses
Leaders of the House of Representatives insisted on its power to detain Ilocos Norte provincial government officials for contempt as the lower house probed the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in the province.
In a message to reporters, majority leader Rudy Fariñas said the Court of Appeals which earlier ordered the release of the detained officials had no jurisdiction over the contempt powers of Congress.
Fariñas said the Office of the Solicitor General led by Sergeant-At-Arms retired Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali has questioned the Court of Appeals’ grant of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to the detained officials.
Despite an order for the House to present the officials in court, House Sergeant-At-Arms has not presented the officials in court.
“It’s a pending case in court, and we will address the issues properly in court. Having said that, the Office of the Solicitor General that is representing the Sergeant At Arms of the House of Representatives, retired Lt Gen Roland Detabali, has questioned the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals over the contempt powers of Congress,” Fariñas said.
In a radio interview with dzBB Sunday, Deputy Speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro stood by the majority leader and asserted the lower house powers to hold resource persons in contempt.
He urged the Court of Appeals to respect the contempt powers of Congress.
“Ako ay naniniwala na tama ang paninindigan ni Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas dito. Sapagkat otherwise, sino pa ang susunod at a-attend sa mga investigation na gaganapin sa senado man o mababang kapulungan? At ano naman ang magiging kapangyarihan ng kongreso kung hindi naipatutupad ang kanyang coercive powers?” Castro said.
(I believe that Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas was correct in standing by this. Otherwise, who would attend investigations in the Senate and lower House? And what other power is left to Congress if it cannot enforce its coercive powers?)
“Kung hindi rerespetuhin ng Court of Appeals itong coercive powers ng Congress ay sino pang susunod at sino pa ang tatalima sa mga pinag-uutos ng mababang kapulungan at ng Senado?” he added.
(If the Court of Appeals would not respect the coercive powers of Congress, who else would comply with the order of the lower House and the Senate?)
As to the perception that the lower house was acting like bullies by defying the appellate court, Castro said the lower house under the present leadership only wanted to assert its contempt powers unlike during the previous Congresses.
“Naoobserbahan ko lang na siga ngayon ang liderato ng house of representatives sapagkat noong mga nakaraang mahabang panahon na ay parang binalewala din naman ang House of Representatives. Hindi assertive ang House of Representatives sa kapangyarihan at mga prerogatives nito,” Castro said.
(I observe that the House leadership is more assertive because in the past, the House of Representatives was not taken seriously. The House of Representatives did not assert its powers and prerogatives.)
“Nagiging assertive dahil nakikita ng Mababang Kapulungan or perhaps pati ng Senado ang mga problema ng bayan natin,” he added.
(The lower house is being assertive because both houses of Congress see the problems of the nation.)
In its inquiry, Fariñas ordered the detention of Engineer Pedro Agcaoili, chair of the 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 to cite them in contempt after they claimed they already forgot about millions of pesos in transactions made in 2011.
Earlier, the committee also cited in contempt treasurer Josephine Calajete; Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro, staff of Office of the Provincial Treasurer, and general services officer Joseph Castro.
The Court of Appeals earlier granted the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus petition of Jambaro, Gaor, Calajate, Battulayan, Tabulog, and Agcaoili. They remain detained at the House as the Sergeant-At-Arms defied the appellate court’s order.
The lower house committee investigating the alleged tobacco funds misuse also subpoenaed Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, who snubbed the committee inquiry which she called “political persecution.”
It was Fariñas who filed House Resolution 882 that called for an investigation into the use of excise taxes by the Ilocos Norte government.
Fariñas is in his last term in Congress, raising speculation that he would challenge whoever Marcos would anoint to take her place. Marcos is in her last term as governor.
The Fariñas and Marcos clans have been in a love-hate alliance that has rocked politics in Ilocos Norte during elections.
The Marcoses cut ties with the Fariñases in 2015, reportedly due to political differences. CBB/rga
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