Marcos siblings may be jailed if they snub House hearing on Ilocos Six
The country may soon see two Marcoses behind bars if they would refuse to cooperate with the House of Representatives in its inquiry into the Ilocos Norte provincial government’s alleged tobacco funds misuse, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Sunday.
In a radio interview with dzBB, Pimentel, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability which is conducting the probe, said this might very well be the scenario if Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos would continue to snub the House inquiry.
Pimentel said the committee would be forced to issue an arrest order against the governor if she would defy the House subpoena ordering her to attend the next hearing, which is scheduled for July 25.
The detention area for the governor has already been put in order. But she could still avoid arrest if she would cooperate with the House inquiry, Pimentel said, adding that arresting a Marcos would be a difficult feat.
He said arresting a Marcos would be far more difficult than arresting an ordinary citizen like Ronnie Dayan, the former driver and lover of Sen. Leila de Lima who was ordered by the House in connection with its inquiry into the alleged illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
Dayan and De Lima now face drug sale and trade charges and disobedience to summons to the House inquiry.
“This will be for purposes of discussion lang ha,” Pimentel said. “We’re not saying that we are going to arrest her… if we will issue a warrant of arrest, we will be arresting a governor, an incumbent governor – at Marcos pa ang apelyido. Tingin ko, mahirap hirap yan. Si Ronnie Dayan, madali lang natin arestuhin dahil ordinary citizen. Pero this person is very powerful.”
Pimentel also said the governor’s brother, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., should also refrain from advising his sister to snub the House inquiry if he would not want to be charged for disobeying a summons before the court.
Earlier, Pimentel said the former senator may be cited for contempt for reportedly advising his sister not to attend the House inquiry, comparing the alleged act to that of De Lima who was charged before the court for disobedience to summons for allegedly instructing Dayan to hide and not comply with the House subpoena to attend the House NBP drug trade inquiry.
“Kakilala ko naman po si Bongbong Marcos,” Pimentel said. “Pero he should refrain from advising his sister not to attend because that is already in violation of Section 11, letter F, a person can be cited for contempt if he is causing undue interference in the conduct of proceedings of the hearing. And this is clearly interfering already,” Pimentel said, citing the House rules.
He advised the former senator not to get involved in the House investigation if he would not want to be cited for contempt and ordered arrested.
“We will cite him for contempt. And again he will suffer the penalty of detention,” Pimentel said.
“Yong sinasabi mong wag kang mag-attend eh that is already interfering,” he added. “So pag-uusapan po namin sa hearing yan. So sana po ay huwag na niyang pilitin na huwag dumalo si Gov. Imee kasi baka mapilitan kami, baka pati siya masali dyan sa gulo.”
Pimentel said the Marcos siblings could both be ordered arrested for contempt for continuously snubbing the House probe.
“Kung tatanungin niyo ako kung posible ba siyang (Bongbong) masama sa contempt – posible,” he said. “This is highly probable na masama siya sa contempt because under our rules ay pasok na pasok po don yong interference niya with the proceedings.”
He said that their family name and their being the children of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who imposed martial law amid human rights violations, would not exempt them from arrest for alleged violations of the law.
“No one is above the law,” Pimentel said. “She [the governor] just violated a certain law eh bakit… panagutan naman niya.”
In a statement issued on Sunday, Governor Marcos said she would willing to cooperate with the House in its inquiry as long as her constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty would be respected.
“I have expressed my willingness to cooperate with the Committee on Good Government on the faith that the committee would conduct its current inquiry in accordance with the letter and spirit of Sec. 21, Art. VI of the Constitution – that the inquiry is in aid of legislation and that the rights of persons appearing therein are protected,” she said in a statement released through her lawyer, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
“As a former legislator, I also know that the power of legislative inquiry does not give Congress the power to deprive any citizen of constitutionally vested rights such as the rights to freedom of movement and to be presumed innocent until you are proven guilty,” she added. “Neither does it vest Congress the power to act as a prosecutorial or judicial body that determines the innocence or guilt of anyone for any charge of misconduct. The judicial system, not Congress, is constitutionally empowered to do so.”
She slammed the House for acting as a prosecutor, investigator and judge and for letting the separation of powers between the court and legislature be subverted by “legislative tyrannny.”
The House earlier refused to comply with the writ of habeas corpus granted by the Court of Appeals ordering to release the six detained Ilocos Norte provincial government officials detained for contempt.
“Were Congress to act as investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one, would not the principle of separation of powers be subverted by legislative tyranny?” the governor said.
She said she would not expect to be treated fairly, in the same way the six provincial government officials detained by the House were denied freedom despite being granted a writ of habeas corpus.
“The public threats directed to me on the certainty of my arrest and detention is extremely intimidating but unnecessary,” Governor Marcos said. “I am already extremely intimidated by the manner the Ilocos Six were made to suffer the physical strain and mental torture of prolonged detention.”
“Given the recent media statements of the leaders of the xommittee, I cannot expect to be treated fairly or any better than the Ilocos Six,” she added. “In this light, I strongly reserve my right, together with the Ilocos Six, to resort to available legal remedies in defense of our constitutional rights. I have faith that ours is still a government of laws.”
Earlier, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who initiated the investigation, was declared persona non grata in his own province by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan because of refusal to release the detained Ilocos Norte provincial employees, the so-called Ilocos Six.
Fariñas vowed to retaliate by filing graft charges and seeking damages from the provincial board for declaring him persona non grata in his own district.
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 benefiting tobacco farmers.
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 House inquiry into the tobacco funds mess implicating Marcos is setting the stage for the 2019 elections where a face-off is expected between Marcoses and Fariñases, Ilocos Norte’s most prominent political clans asserting dominance over the province. /atm
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