MANILA – The House committee on good government and public accountability will hold an emergency hearing on Tuesday, June 20, to give six detained executives of Ilocos Norte one last chance to answer questions on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in the province’s share of tobacco excise tax collections.
The collections are from locally manufactured Virginia type cigarettes.
“We will set them free right away, once they decide to tell the truth about the anomaly. We are really hoping they will change their minds by Tuesday, both for their sake and for the sake of public interest,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, committee chairman, said in a statement Sunday.
He was referring to the so-called “Ilocos 6” whose case has sparked bitter recriminations from the House leadership against the Court of Appeals, which ordered Congress to show cause why it should not be cited in contempt for refusing to free the local officials.
Imee told to testify, or face arrest
Meanwhile, even as he held out the possibility the House may free the Ilocos 6, Pimentel said they are “absolutely prepared” to have Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos arrested if she defies the subpoena for her to testify in the committee’s subsequent hearing on July 25.
“What we issued was a subpoena and a show cause order why she should not be cited in contempt if fails to attend the July 25 hearing,” Pimentel said.
Speaking of the Ilocos 6 whose cause to be freed has been backed by Governor Marcos and her brother, former senator Bongbong Marcos, Rep. Pimentel said: “They’ve actually refused to be served notices, so we may have to bodily carry them to the (third) hearing at 1:30pm on Tuesday (June 21),” Pimentel said.
Ilocos Norte treasurer Josephine Calajate, accountant Edna Batulayan, budget officer Evangeline Tabulog, bids and awards committee head Pedro Agcaoili as well as Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor of the provincial treasurer’s office have been detained since May 29 at the House, after they were cited in contempt by Pimentel’s panel.
Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said they would continue to hold the officials “until they stop their contemptuous act of giving evasive answers, tantamount to refusal to answer” questions about the money meant for the benefit of tobacco farmers, but misused as cash advances for the purchase of motor vehicles sans the benefit of competitive public biddings.
Pimentel, meanwhile, said of Imee Marcos: “We do not want to embarrass the Governor. However, if she forces our hand, of course we are ready to do a Ronnie Dayan on her, in accordance with House rules,” Pimentel said, referring to Senator Leila de Lima’s alleged bagman and former driver.
The House committee on justice cited Dayan in contempt for his refusal without legal excuse to obey a summon for him to testify on the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons. He was then apprehended and brought to the Speaker.