MANILA, Philippines – After calling them gago (idiots), Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has now threatened with disbarment the three Court of Appeals justices handling the cases of the Ilocos Norte employees detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
The House leader on Friday said Congress could even dissolve the appellate court as it was just created by the legislative branch. The funds of the CA also come from Congress, he said.
“The CA is a mere creation of Congress,” Alvarez added in a text message.
In a separate radio interview the same day, Alvarez berated the CA justices anew, saying, “Itong mga tatlong gagong justices na ito, dapat ito, magpa-file kami ng disbarment cases for ignorance of the law.”
[These three idiots, disbarment cases should be filed against them for ignorance of the law.]
Alvarez was referring to associate justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon, and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela of the CA Special Fourth Division, who earlier granted the habeas corpus petition of the six employees of the Ilocos Norte local government.
The six employees — Genedine D. Jambaro, Encarnacion A. Gaor, Josephine P. Calajate, Eden C. Battulayan, Evangeline C. Tabuluog, and Pedro S. Agcaoili Jr – have been detained at the Batasan Complex since May 29.
They were cited in contempt by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability for being “evasive” in responding to queries about the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds. The money was used by the local government to buy motor vehicles.
The CA had directed the House sergeant-at-arms to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for defying the order of the appellate court to present the six employees before the court and eventually release them.
‘I don’t honor their order’
In his reply on Wednesday, Alvarez said, “That’s gross ignorance of the law. Mga gago ‘yang tatlong justices na ‘yan.”
The House leader said Valenzuela should have inhibited herself from the case because her husband was a former law partner of Estelito Mendoza, the former solicitor general and now lawyer of the six employees.
“Delicadeza, dapat nag-inhibit man lang siya d’yan, pero hindi nag-inhibit. Ito namang dalawa pang bugok na kasama niya, ay pumanig pa. Dito talaga, malinaw na malinaw talagang gross ignorance of the law ito. Kaya ako, hindi ko ino-honor ‘yong kanilang order na magpost ng bail (for the six employees),” Alvarez said.
[She should have inhibited out of delicadeza, but she didn’t. Her two other fool colleagues sided with her. Here, it’s very clear that it was gross ignorance of the law. That’s why I don’t honor their order to post bail for the six employees.]
“Aakuin ko ‘yan. Tingnan natin, sumosobra na ito [I’ll take responsibility for this. Let’s see, they’ve already crossed the line],” he added.
According to Alavarez, the appellate has no right to invoke that it is a co-equal branch of Congress because it isn’t. He said the CA was created by Congress and could be dissolved anytime.
“Kaya mag-isip-isip naman sila. Huwag naman iyong ganyan. Ito ay ginagawa natin dahil iyon ay ating tungkulin sa bayan,” he said.
[They should think twice. It shouldn’t be like this. We did this because it was our responsibility to our country.]
He said the purchases of the vehicles in 2011 and 2012 were questionable because there was no bidding.
Imee accused of diverting tobacco funds
In an earlier statement, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos said the purchases of the vehicles were aboveboard, using the province’s share from the tobacco excise tax, under Republic Act 7171. The vehicles were distributed to tobacco farmers and barangay officials.
Marcos is being accused by Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of allegedly diverting P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.
The six Ilocos Norte employees were detained after repeatedly telling the House panel chaired by Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel that they could not recall receiving millions in cash advances or authorizing the release of funds for the purchase of various vehicles.
During the May 29 House inquiry, Fariñas grilled the employees on the allegedly anomalous purchase of minicabs, buses, and trucks in 2011 and 2012 using the share of the province from tobacco funds.
According to Fariñas, the vehicles were purchased through cash advances from the province’s share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171 or the Act to Promote the Development of the Farmer in the Virgina Tobacco-Producing Provinces.
The lawmaker claimed the purchase of the vehicles had violated provisions of R.A. 7171 because the law mandates Virginia tobacco-producing provinces to use 15 percent of their share of excise taxes from locally produced cigarettes for projects that will help advance tobacco farmers’ self reliance through the establishment of cooperatives and livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.
Also, Fariñas claimed there was no public bidding in the purchase of the vehicles in violation of Republic Act 9814 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.