(UPDATED 9:40 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos asked the Supreme Court Thursday for a writ of amparo in favor of six provincial employees detained at the House of Representatives since late May for refusing to cooperate with an inquiry into the allegedly anomalous purchase of P66.45 million in government vehicles.
At the same time, Marcos, who the House has also threatened with arrest if she refuses to honor a subpoena to appear at the July 25 hearing into the allegedly anomaly, hinted she may indeed, defy the order.
Appearing at a press conference in Manila, the governor said they have been left with no other recourse but the Supreme Court after exhausting all other legal means to seek the release of the provincial planning and development officer Pedro Agcaoili, provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog, provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate, accountant Eden Battulayan, and treasury office staff members Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor, who are also known as the “Ilocos 6.”
“Huwag sana kami papalag ang ating mga justices dahil sila ang huli at kataas-taasan na hukuman (We hope the justices will not balk because they are the last and highest court),” Marcos said.
The row over the Ilocos 6 has also pitted the House against the Court of Appeals after the chamber, reacting to a writ of habeas corpus issued by the court, issued a show cause order for the justices to explain why they should not be cited for contempt.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez claims the appellate court has no jurisdiction over the Congress and has threatened to dissolve it and disbar the justices handling the Ilocos 6 case.
Marcos said the continued detention of the six has already affected the financial operations of the provincial government.
On the other hand, while insisting “I want to talk” and “tell our story dahil wala naman tayo tinatago (we have nothing to hide),” Marcos claimed she has been receiving advice to “boycott” the proceedings “kasi iipitin ka. Hindi ka lang nahusgahan, dali-dali ka ding ikukulong. … Hindi kasi pantay ang laban sa Kongreso (because they will persecute you. You will not only be judged, they will move to quickly detain you. The fight is not fair in Congress).”
Calls out Fariñas
She also called out House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas for dragging their local rift into Congress and described the detention of the Ilocos 6 as a “hostage crisis.”
“Local politics lang ang pinagmulan nito. Kinalakad ito sa Kongreso… (This all stems from local politics. But this was dragged to Congress),” she said as she challenged him to settle their differences in Ilocos Norte and challenge her for the post if he wants to.
She said when he was governor, Fariñas was also charged before the Sandiganbayan over allegations of using the tobacco excise tax to purchase luxury jeeps and using disaster funds to purchase speedboats.
Marcos lashed at the House of Representatives, saying its mandate is to conduct “investigation(s) in aid of legislation, not in aid of persecution of political opponents,” and maintained that the purchase of the vehicles with the tobacco funds was justified since these were used to transport farmers’ goods to markets.
She also presented the Commission on Audit report on the province’s use of its share from tobacco excise taxes, reiterating that bidding processes were followed in the purchase of the vehicles.
Reacting to Marcos’ pronouncements, Rep. Rudy Fariñas said he will fully answer her in a “counter press conference” whille “inviting her to join such in any network of her choice,” but nonetheless gave initial responses to some issues.
Here’s his response:
“Initially, if what she is saying are true, why is she afraid to appear and state them under oath in the House inquiry? Why has she ordered her six subordinates not to remember the three transactions subject of the inquiry? Finally, if the three transactions were all legal, why do they continue to invoke their right against self-incrimination?
“It’s incomprehensible that they have chosen to be held in contempt and be detained for their refusal to answer questions about these cash advances. They claim that the transactions are legal but refuse to talk about them unless they are shown the original documents that have mysteriously disappeared in the Capitol.
“Gov. Marcos claims that the use of cash advances for the purchase of the 115 vehicles is legal , but her six subordinates refuse to answer the simple question if cash advances were resorted to in these transactions.
“Are they all afraid to be eventually asked and reveal who actually received and kept the P66.45 million in cash?
“Gov. Marcos personally requested for the purchase of 70 Foton Mini Trucks. She also approved her own request for 70 Foton Mini Trucks. She approved all the alleged biddings for 70 Foton Mini Trucks. She approved the Disbursement Voucher for the cash advance to purchase 70 Foton Mini Trucks. Finally, she signed the check for P32.6M for the purchase of 70 Foton Mini Trucks.
“But there was not a single Foton Mini Truck delivered to the Province of Ilocos Norte. This is a clear falsification of public documents and ghost delivery of 70 Foton Mini Trucks.”
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