Ex-UP law dean backs court vs House
The three embattled justices of the Court of Appeals have found another ally in well-respected constitutional law expert Pacifico Agabin in their continuing legal tussle with the House of Representatives over the detention of the so-called “Ilocos Six.”
Agabin, a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, said the House’s defiance of the appellate court’s order to free the six Ilocos Norte employees and executives violated the separation of powers of the three branches of the government.
As earlier pointed out by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), he said Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, or the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, authorized the appeals court to grant “writs of mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, and quo warranto, and auxiliary writs or processes.”
He also assailed the House committee on good government and public accountability for issuing a show-cause order for the members of the appellate court’s Special Fourth Division—Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela—who granted the habeas corpus petition of the six.
“It was not proper for the House to issue that order,” Agabin stressed. “The congressmen are probably not aware of the expanded definition of ‘judicial power’ in the Constitution.”
The former law dean, who now teaches at the Philippine Judicial Academy, also expressed disappointment that the lawmakers behind the monthlong impasse, among them Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, were lawyers themselves.
On June 9, the three justices directed the House leadership to release the six personnel and officials of the Ilocos Norte provincial capitol who have been detained by the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office since May 29 after they were cited in contempt.
The six—provincial planning and development officer and bids and awards committee chair Pedro Agcaoili, provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog, provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate, accountant Eden Battulayan, and treasury office staff Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor—allegedly evaded answering questions during a House inquiry into the P66.45-million tobacco fund anomaly involving Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.
Last week, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and appeals court Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. issued a joint statement urging the House to recall the show-cause order against the justices in a bid to end the legal standoff.
Their call, however, fell on deaf ears as Alvarez insisted that Sereno should sanction the three justices for committing judicial overreach and for undermining the House committee’s contempt powers.
The 50,000-strong IBP also threw its support behind the appellate court, calling on its members in the House to respect the rule of law and “act as light bringers and advocates of sobriety.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.