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Imee lambasts Fariñas, runs to SC over Ilocos 6

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Imee lambasts Fariñas, runs to SC over Ilocos 6

Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos shows a copy of a petition for habeas corpus she fi led on behalf of the Ilocos 6. EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines - Gov. Imee Marcos yesterday lambasted her political rival – House majority leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas – and dared him to bring the fight back to their province as she also sought relief from the Supreme Court.

In a press conference, the Ilocos Norte governor said the House investigation on the alleged illegal purchase of P66.4 million worth of buses and multi-cabs without public bidding – an alleged misuse of tobacco excise taxes – obviously stemmed from her political rivalry with Fariñas in the province.

“This started from local politics, so we should just bring the fight back to Ilocos Norte,” she stressed, pointing out that she reconciled with Fariñas in 2010 only to have a falling out again after the lawmaker requested that his daughter succeed him as congressional representative. Fariñas allegedly wanted to be appointed ombudsman after serving three terms in Congress.

Marcos showed Commission on Audit records that said the questioned project is aboveboard, aside from sharing photos of Fariñas escorting her during the distribution of the vehicles, purchased using excise taxes, to local farmers.

“The COA reports show that all our projects are fully liquidated and there’s never an anomaly or ghost project. These vehicles benefitted our farmers,” she explained, pointing out that even Fariñas’ son Rodolfo Jr. and nephew Jeff Erickson requested for mini trucks from the questioned project.

She added that there was nothing wrong in procuring the vehicles via the cash advance scheme instead of public bidding, arguing that the method is a legal and acceptable option. 

Asked for her comment on the support of the House leadership to the inquiry that she branded as “local politics,” the governor believes it was to be expected, given the collegial nature of Congress where lawmakers “help each other out.”

“You all know that Speaker (Pantaleon Alvarez) has a problem with (Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio) Floirendo (Jr.) and Tadeco (Tagum Development Corp.),” she pointed out.

Face Congress, not media

Abono party-list Rep. Vini Nola Ortega said Marcos could actually help settle the issue and hasten the release of the six Ilocos Norte officials detained for contempt at the House of Representatives for over a month now by attending the House committee on good government and public accountability hearing.

“Manang Imee, please help us resolve this controversy and kindly respect the summons issued by Congress… She has nothing to be afraid of. Instead of issuing statements to media, why not appear and explain in Congress? We will not allow her rights to be violated if she decides to do so,” Ortega said.

The daughter of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, she added, is “defying the summons of the very institution that she was part of years back.”

“It’s basic courtesy and respect for the law that she should also comply,” Ortega insisted. “Gov.  Marcos said that we congressmen are heartless by continuing to detain the so-called Ilocos 6. I think it is unfair to portray us that way.”

Mindoro Oriental Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon urged Marcos to just attend the hearing and shed light on the issue, instead of holding press conferences. 

“Gov. Marcos has been given numerous opportunities to present her side but she has repeatedly refused our invitations,” he lamented, adding Congress would give her a venue to present her defense. 

“She says she has proof that the transactions were aboveboard and consistent with the law. If that’s the case, then she can share these with us. She spoke for 30 minutes straight during her presscon, and we have no problem giving her an hour to speak if it will shed light on the irregularities we have discovered,” Leachon stressed. 

“Perhaps Gov. Imee prefers to speak in press conferences because it’s a one-way street; in Congress, she can be asked questions, issues can be further explored. Baka dito siya kinakabahan (Maybe this is where she gets nervous),” he insinuated. 

“If she is confident that she and her team did nothing wrong and everything is in order, then she has no reason to evade the summons of Congress. Governors have been invited to Congress before and they have participated in inquiries like these without fanfare or furor,” added Leachon.

Writ of amparo

Along with the six provincial officials who remain detained at the House of Representatives for contempt, Marcos sought relief from the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday, asking that they be granted the writ of amparo.

The writ is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act of a public official or a private individual or entity.

In a 67-page petition, they asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the investigation of the House committee on good government and public accountability, order the release of the six provincial officials and assume jurisdiction on the writ of habeas corpus case pending before the Court of Appeals (CA), whose earlier release order was ignored by the House.

Named respondents were Fariñas, House committee chair and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel and House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali.

Marcos and the Ilocos 6 – Pedro Agcaoili, Josephine Calajate, Eden Battulayan, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro and Evangeline Tabulog – assailed the House probe, saying it was railroaded, lacked the preliminary determination on propriety by the House committee on rules and lacked the determination of jurisdiction by the investigating committee.

“The legislative inquiry has been purged of any legitimacy when the respondents blatantly violated basically everything that is legal – the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, the Rules Governing Inquiries and the lawful orders of the Honorable Court of Appeals,” read the petition.

The petitioners told the SC that the House committee subjected the six officers, detained for more than a month now, to psychological torture and intimidation as “the conditions of confinement are degrading and inhuman,” pointing out that they were not provided food, mattresses and beddings and that the detention area was actually a stockroom with very poor ventilation. –  With Delon Porcalla

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