House not troubled by judiciary's plea to recall show cause

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2017 05:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 23 2017 06:12 PM

MANILA- The House of Representatives remains untroubled by the appeal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Court of Appeals (CA) Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. to recall its show cause order against appellate court magistrates for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte officials the chamber had detained for clamming up in a legislative inquiry. 

In a statement, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez instead advised Sereno and Reyes to hold accountable the CA justices behind the order, namely 4th Division Acting Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz, and Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela. 

"While I appreciate the view of Chief Justice Sereno and Presiding Justice Reyes, it may also be best if they can discipline the said members of the appeals court for grave abuse of discretion and abuse of authority. Accordingly, it also has the power to rectify the "uneasy situation" its recklessness has created," Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the House was "simply doing its job based on jurisprudence and existing law" in deciding to keep custody of the six provincial officials.

"For the record, it is the Special 4th division of the Court of Appeals that violated the existing law and established jurisprudence," he said.

The House leader also defended the issuance of a show cause order against the magistrates, saying such was a consequence of the court’s order that "overstepped its authority and transgressed the committee’s contempt powers, which is a necessary extension of its legislative power affirmed by no less than the Supreme Court in numerous cases."

House Committee on Good Government and Accountability Chair Johnny Pimentel advised the justices to put their reconsideration plea in writing and address it to the committee. 

"I cannot usurp the powers of the committee. Hindi naman puwedeng verbal. There must be a proper official request for reconsideration," he said.

Pimentel also revealed that his committee would soon serve the subpoena for Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos to attend the July 25 hearing of the committee. 

The committee approved the subpoena during its May 29 hearing and is likewise up for signature by Alvarez.

"It's already in the Office of the Speaker for his signature. Once it is already signed, we will serve it to Gov. Imee next week," he said.

Upon the committee's order, the House has held since May 29 Pedro Agcaoili, chair of the provincial bids and awards committee and provincial planning and development officer; Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Eden Battulayan, provincial accountant; and provincial treasurer’s office staff Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor.

The employees had appeared before the committee’s inquiry into the alleged misuse of tobacco excise tax amounting to P66.45-million in the purchase of mini trucks, mini cabs, and second-hand buses in 2011.

They were detained for allegedly refusing to answer questions on the transaction, which was completed during Marcos' term. The six received an order of release from the CA but the House did not comply with the order.

The appellate court later granted the employees' petition for bail and subsequently issued an order for their release. The House has defied this court order, with Alvarez even threatening to dissolve the CA.