June 25, 2017, 1:11 pm
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House to ask SC to disbar 3 CA justices over ‘Ilocos 6’

AT least 180 members of the House of Representatives have signed a draft resolution asking the Supreme Court to disbar or impose disciplinary actions against three justices of the Court of Appeal’s Special Fourth Division justices for ordering congressmen to release the six Ilocos Norte officials who were detained for their refusal to directly answer questions about the provincial government’s purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million.

Majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas said acting Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz and Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela were wrong in issuing a writ of habeas corpus and should be disbarred for “ignorance of the law and abuse of authority.”

He said granting the habeas corpus petition – a legal remedy sought to present detainees before the Court to determine the legality of their detention – contravenes the contempt powers of Congress.

“Look what they (CA) did. They granted (the petition for) habeas corpus without notice to the House and without an opportunity given to the House to (answer). (The CA also) allows them to post a P30,000 bail despite contempt powers of Congress,” Fariñas said.

Fariñas said the resolution, soon to be filed, will be the basis for initiating a complaint before the Supreme Court for disbarment and/or administrative disciplinary against the three justices.

The committee on good government is investigating Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos’ alleged misuse of the province’s share in the tobacco excise tax based on House Resolution No. 882 filed by Fariñas but the evasiveness of the six officials irked the majority leader who moved that they be cited in contempt.

The six are Ilocos Norte provincial treasurer officers Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaors and Josephine Calajate; Ilocos Norte accountant IV Eden Battulayan; bids and awards committee (BAC) chairman, Engr. Pedro Agcaoili; and Ilocos Norte provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog.

The employees, who have been detained at the House since May 29, brought the case to the CA but the House has continued to defy the court’s order.

Alvarez earlier called the CA justices “gago” (idiots) for issuing a show cause order asking him and House Sergeant-At-Arms (SAA) Ronald Detabali to explain why they should not be cited in contempt since Congress is a co-equal branch of the Judiciary.
 
‘CA IS NOT THE SC’

Rep. Vicente Veloso (PDP-Laban, Leyte), a CA former associate justice, said the CA is not a co-equal branch of the House since it is not the Supreme Court.

“Well, I came from the Court of Appeals and I’m quite sure of what the law is on the matter. The problem with the Court of Appeals, really, is that it is acting as if it is the Supreme Court,” he told radio dzBB.

“Now, the question is, is the CA a co-equal branch of the House of Representatives? No, it’s not. The co-equal (branch) in particular is the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals is one notch below the Supreme Court. In terms of equality, it’s in the level of the provincial board in the matter of legislation. So under the doctrine of separation of powers, the CA is far from the SC,” Veloso added.

Veloso cited the case of Vera vs. Avelino, saying it was decided in that case that the Judiciary cannot interfere even if the Legislative did something unpleasant “as long as it is part of the legislative process.”

He said both the Judiciary and the Legislative have contempt powers under rule 71 of the Rules of Court which empowers them to detain witness and resource persons cited in contempt who refuse to tell the truth.

“So what the Legislature is doing is fair and square,” Veloso said. “Imagine, if we allow this (CA), the Senate and the House of Representatives won’t be able to hold hearings because all they have to do is run to the Court of Appeals and file a petition for writ of habeas corpus.”
 
ARREST IMEE?

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chair of the committee on good government, said the committee is “absolutely prepared” to order Marcos’ arrest if she defies the subpoena for her to attend the hearing on July 25.

Aside from issuing a subpoena, the panel has also issued a show cause order for Marcos to explain why she should not be cited in contempt if she does not show up.

“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 and lover who was cited in contempt and ordered arrested by the House committee on justice for his refusal to attend its inquiry on the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons.

Marcos has said the vehicles bought from the tobacco funds will be used to address the farmers’ “need for transport to increase productivity, market produce, and facilitate access to livelihood and training projects.”

RA 7171 provides that 15 percent of excise taxes collected from cigarette products should be earmarked for a support fund for tobacco farmers.

Pimentel also warned the “Ilocos Six” that they will be physically dragged to the hearing on Tuesday if they will refuse to attend.

“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,” he said.

Pimentel said the panel will set the six 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,” 
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