CA, House clash damaging to judicial institutions — lawyers’ group
The country’s oldest lawyers’ group warned leaders of the House of Representatives that it is risking damaging judicial institutions with its continuous threat to the Court of Appeals (CA) for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial employees who remain in detention for over a month after they were cited in contempt.
“We must defend as sacrosanct the Constitutional principles of separation of powers and judicial independence. Otherwise, we risk damaging our judicial institutions and substituting tyranny for the rule of law,” the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) said in a two-page statement made public Monday.
PBA, the oldest voluntary organization of lawyers in the country, believes that the appeals court “did not infringe upon or in any way diminish the power of the House of Representatives” and “merely performed a necessary check for the purpose of ensuring the judicious exercise of such power” in issuing the writ of habeas corpus in favor of the Ilocos Norte officials.
“To now seek to punish the three justices who were merely performing their sworn duty to inquire into the basis of confinement or detention devalues the writ and imperils the zealous protection of individual liberty,” it stressed.
The group further explained that while the House has the power to conduct inquiry under Article VI, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution, the appeals court also has the original jurisdiction to issue the writ of habeas corpus, which is the “most efficacious safeguard of the liberty of individuals in a free society.”
“Section 1 of Republic Act No. 7902 grants the Court of Appeals original jurisdiction to issue writs of habeas corpus and auxiliary writs or processes with the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or further proceedings,” it explained.
Earlier, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, mandatory organization of lawyers in the country, earlier issued a similar statement and also called on the House to recall the show cause order against Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio -Valenzuela.
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. have also supported this appeal, suggesting to House leaders to instead avail of legal remedies under the Rules of Court in challenging the CA orders.
The CA has ordered the release of Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairperson; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Eden Battulayan, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Encarnacion Gaor, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Genedine Jambaro, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; and Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer.
They have been detained since May 29 after being cited in contempt by the House committee on good government and public accountability during its probe into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles. JE
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