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LEGAL TUSSLE OVER 'ILOCOS SIX'

Law dean fears constitutional impasse in House defiance of CA

/ 08:50 PM July 10, 2017
The so-called “Ilocos Six” during their testimony and prior to their detention by the House committee on good governance and public accountability, chaired by now Marcos political rival Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas —GRIG C.MONTEGRANDE

FILE – The so-called Ilocos Six during their testimony and prior to their detention by the House committee on good governance and public accountability, chaired by now Marcos political rival Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas —GRIG C.MONTEGRANDE

A law dean and former governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday said the continued refusal by members of the House of Representatives to abide by the order of the Court of Appeals in releasing  six employees of the local government of Ilocos Norte may lead to a constitutional impasse.

“There is a separation of power among the three branches of government. If the House of Representatives continues to disregard the lawful orders of the Court of Appeals; there will really be a constitutional impasse,” Lawyer Jose Vicente Opinion, who is also Dean of Eastern Samar State University College of Law said Monday.

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“The CA should not be bullied. The next best thing for the ‘Ilocos Six’ is to go to the Supreme Court, which is the only one that can resolve this impasse,” he said.

The six – Josephine Calajate, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro, Evangeline Tabulog, Pedro Agcaoili Jr. and Eden Battulayan – 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.

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They were cited in contempt by lawmakers who accused them of refusing to answer relevant questions.

Opinion said if the purpose of the congressional inquiry was in aid of legislation, then lawmakers are well within their right to cite the local government employees in contempt.

“But it seems to me the purpose is to investigate an anomaly in the implementation of a law, in which case that is already beyond their jurisdiction,” he said.

Opinion noted that some statements of lawmakers which undermined the CA’s order for a writ of habeas corpus and for the temporary release of the Ilocos Six have aggravated the situation.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, in particular, has been vocal in rejecting the appellate court’s orders. Instead, the House committee issued a show cause order requiring the three CA justices why they should not be cited for contempt for ordering the release of the six officials of Ilocos Norte.

CA’s Special Fourth Division already started contempt of court proceedings against Alvarez and House of Representatives Sgt.-At-Arms Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali for disregarding its three orders.

On June 1, CA issued a resolution requiring Congress to file its comment on the case. A day after, the court issued a writ of habeas corpus and ordered Detabali to produce the detained employees. On June 9, the CA issued another resolution granting the petitioners’ request for provisional release provided they post bail at P30,000 each.

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Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas has also repeatedly threatened the six employees that they may be held in detention until June 30, 2019, or until lawmakers are satisfied with their answers.

Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, who serves as counsel for the “Ilocos Six,” insisted that their continued detention was tantamount to mental torture.

The Katipunan ng Pilipinong Maka-bayan (KPM) and Kabataan Sandigan at Gabay ng Pilipino Incorporated (KASAGPI), both headed by Mr. Roberto “Ka Obet” Dela Cerna, urged Ms. Marcos not to attend the House inquiry into the alleged misuse of province’s tobacco funds.

Meanwhile, Mr. Philip Terry of Bayanihan Bayan Movers–Pangasinan Organization of Genuine Inhabitants (BBM-POGI) pointed out: “Alam natin na ang trabaho ng legislative [branch] is to make laws… Kung iyon ang tunay na layunin ng Committee, that would be good, pero kung ang purpose nila ay tulad ng ginawa nila sa ‘Ilocos Six,’ there’s a risk. There is a political vendetta.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Marcos family have urged Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee R. Marcos not to attend the hearing before the House committee on good government and public accountability on July 25.

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TAGS: Court of Appeals, House of Representatives, Ilocos Six, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Philippine news updates
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