SC backs CA in legal tussle with House over ‘Ilocos Six’
The Supreme Court is supporting the Court of Appeals in its legal tussle with the House of Representatives on the habeas corpus case of the six Ilocos Norte provincial officials who remain in detention after they were held in contempt more than a month ago.
At a press conference, High Court’s Information Chief Theodore Te said that the June 21 joint statement earlier issued by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. represents the position of other magistrates and the High Court as an institution.
“The statement (dated June 21) says it all,” said Te.
House leaders threatened to cite Court of Appeals Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio for contempt for ordering the release of the six Ilocos Norte employees whose families have filed a petition for habeas corpus. Congressional leaders even prepared a detention area for the magistrates.
In the statement issued last June 21, Sereno and Reyes asked the House committee on good governance and public accountability to recall its show cause order on Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio of the CA special fourth division that ordered the release of the so-called “Ilocos 6.”
Citing “implications on separation of powers and judicial independence” of the House order, the heads of the judiciary suggested that the lawmakers instead avail of remedies under the Rules of Court in questioning the CA orders.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Philippine Bar Association have also made similar call for the House to recall the show cause order.
The show cause order required the CA justices to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial officials being detained for contempt in connection with their probe on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.
Last Monday, retiring Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes has called on his colleagues in the SC to continue the fight for judicial independence.
“Protect the Supreme Court from unsavory meddling of those who are trying to taint its integrity,” Reyes said in his speech during his last flag-raising ceremony.
While he did not name the individuals attacking the judiciary, Reyes made the call amid the clash between the CA and House and after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez warned of possible impeachment against Chief Justice Sereno after she reportedly met with CA justices and ordered them to defy the House show cause order against the three magistrates.
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.