‘Ilocos Six’ free to go
After over 50 days in detention, the six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials on Tuesday were ordered released by the House of Representatives.
Majority leader Rudy Fariñas moved for the lifting of the contempt order and for the issuance of the release order of the six officials.
Fariñas said he is lifting the contempt order since the officials admitted during Tuesday’s hearing that it was their signatures on pertinent disbursement vouchers and other documents.
House good government and public accountability committee chairperson Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel approved Fariñas’ motion, to the applause of the audience.
The employees looked elated as they cheered Fariñas’ decision to lift the contempt order. They started going near the microphone and admitting their signatures in pertinent disbursement documents, which they denied in the previous hearings that prompted their detention for contempt.
Fariñas joked that the fresh air in the lower House where the Ilocos Six was detained seemed to have done good on the provincial government officials.
“Gumanda memory niyo ha, naging sharp pa kayo. Maganda siguro hangin dito,” Fariñas quipped.
The release of the Ilocos Six was announced by Marcos and Pimentel. Then a teary-eyed Marcos hugged the employees, who kept on thanking their governor for ensuring their release.
In an ambush interview with reporters after the hearing, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos said she is happy her employees can finally go home to their families after 57 days in detention.
“Maraming salamat at pinalaya na ung Ilocos 6. Yun ang pinaka-importante para saken, na sila ay hindi madamay sa alitan, pulitikal o legal o congressional. Huwag idamay ung maliliit at walang kalaban laban na empleyado,” Marcos said, expressing delight that her employees can go home to their families.
Marcos was also accompanied by her son, model Borgy Manotoc, who was seen hugging and kissing his mother after the hearing.
Marcos thanked former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who accompanied her during the hearing, for providing free legal assistance.
“Nagpapasalamat din ako kay Senate President Enrile sa kanyang tulong, palibhasa beterano siya sa gulong ganito,” Marcos said, laughing, to which Enrile said: “Kailangan ng kapwa ko mga Ilokano na magsama-sama!”
Marcos attended the hearing as the lower house threatened to detain the governor for contempt if she continued to snub the hearing.
This after the lower house ordered six provincial government officials – who came to be known as the Ilocos Six – detained for contempt for refusing to answer questions during previous hearings.
Fariñas in a resolution called for a House probe on the tobacco funds anomaly, in what is perceived to be a political show of force setting the stage for the 2019 elections in Ilocos Norte, where the Fariñas and Marcos clans are asserting dominance.
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 benefitting the tobacco farmers. IDL/rga