Detained ‘Ilocos Six’ urge CA to resolve habeas corpus case
The six employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government who are still being detained by the House of Representatives urged the Court of Appeals to resolve their habeas corpus case immediately and declare their continued detention as illegal and a form of torture.
In a motion dated June 23 but made public Monday, petitioners – Josephine Calajate, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro, Evangeline Tabulog, Pedro Agcaoili Jr. and Eden Battulayan told the CA’s Special Fourth Division that it was crucial for the protection of their constitutional rights for the case to be speedily resolved.
“Four weeks later, with a pending habeas corpus petition and a court order for their release, the petitioners still find themselves without any right to liberty, with no reprieve in sight, and with no recourse to justice,” petitioners through lead counsel, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, said in their 18-page pleading.
“The four weeks that the petitioners have spent in detention is time lost which petitioners could never recover. The Honorable Court, by exercising its power to issue the extraordinary writ of habeas corpus, may still relieve petitioners of the protracted and arbitrary deprivation of their liberty,” the petitioners added.
“The eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws is nonchalantly waylaid into oblivion by lawmakers, in open defiance of the rule of law,” they added.
The six were detained on May 29 by the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability that is inquiring into the local government’s purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million, which was sourced from its share of tobacco excise taxes.
The petitioners, collectively known as Ilocos Six, noted that the Court of Appeals has already issued three orders to the House of Representatives for the writ of habeas corpus as well as their temporary release.
The CA orders have been continuously disregarded by Congress saying the CA has no jurisdiction over them.
Law groups believed that Congress’ action undermines the independence of the judiciary and may lead to a constitutional impasse.
“It should likewise be noted that in all attempts to serve the resolution and order of release, the Court of Appeals Process Server sought entrance at all gates of the House of Representatives, but in a clear sign of the deliberate and concerted effort of respondent and the leadership of the House of Representatives to subvert service, access to all gates were denied,” the petitioners told the appellate court.
“The repeated refusal of respondent (Detabali) to appear before the court, the adamant refusal to receive service of the order of release of petitioners, and implicitly to comply with said order, reveals the lack of respect of respondent, and of his superiors, for the basic constitutional rights of petitioners. Moveover, such refusal to comply with lawful orders of the court reflect the repressive nature of the contempt order against petitioners and their consequent detention.”
The petitioners said there was no attempt on their part to refuse to answer the questions of the lawmakers, which resulted in their detention after they were cited for contempt.
In their motion, the petitioners told the appellate court that Calajate, in particular, merely asked to be given more time to see the original documents while Gaor and Jambaro admitted not remembering the transactions in question. Tabulog told the House panel she was “not so sure” if she signed the documents as the logbooks and registry being referred to have already been destroyed when the local government’s office caught fire. Agcaoili said he does not remember all the transactions as he has handled thousands of procurements, while Battulayan said she does not remember signing a voucher for the cash advance.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas has repeatedly threatened the six employees that they may be held in detention until June 2019 or until the lawmakers are satisfied with their answers.
Mendoza, who serves as counsel for the Ilocos Six, insisted that their continued detention was tantamount to mental torture. JE
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