MANILA - The political game of thrones between Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas has now intensified into a clash of titans between the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court.
The lower house today opened to media the proposed detention facilities for Marcos as well as Court of Appeals 4th division Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela.
Both are located at the 3rd floor of the Plenary hall building. Marcos' proposed detention area is an extension office of the Sergeant-At-Arms. It has a receiving room and its own toilet. It is now being fixed to have its own shower.
At the other end of the 3rd floor of the House is the former office of the Congressional Spouses Foundation. It has its own receiving room, a bedroom, toilet and bath.
The receiving room has a window and it is not as secure as Marcos's proposed detention room.
House of Representatives committee on good government chairman Johnny Pimentel, whose panel is probing Marcos's alleged misuse of provincial excise tax funds to purchase vehicles without a public bidding, explained that the committee will be procuring a bed for Marcos.
"As you can see, it's habitable. It is actually very comfortable for a detention room. Nakita naman niyo, merong receiving room, may private room, the CR, toilet and bath. She can bring her own bed. Malaki ito," he said.
He said the Marcos detention area would be about 80 square meters.
Sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali explained that just like the previous detainees of the House, Marcos will be allowed to bring food and cellphones, she will have TV, Internet and Wifi.
Visitors are allowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. upon the discretion of the detainee.
Detabali said one of the so-called Ilocos 6 was allowed to have a birthday party in the House.
"Gusto nila mag birthday party, inaayos rin namin. Whatever we can give them, inspection and check natin kung yung kailangan na control ng pagpasok ng number of visitors and of course kung gusto ng detainees," he said.
Marcos will also be free to walk around escorted for her exercise, he said.
Pimentel clarified that the committee has not yet issued a warrant for Marcos' arrest. Showing the detention area to media was a response to Marcos' statement that she won't attend the hearing, he said.
Marcos has been issued a subpoena to attend the July 25 hearing. If she disobeys that, she will be issued a show cause order to say why she should not be held in contempt. After that, a warrant for her arrest will be coming next.
On Sunday, an Inquirer report quoted Marcos as saying that she will cooperate in the inquiry "on the faith that the committee would conduct its current inquiry in accordance with the letter and spirit of Sec. 21, Art. VI of the Constitution—that the inquiry is in aid of legislation and that the rights of persons appearing therein are protected."
Pimentel earlier told radio DZMM that he welcomes the governor's statement.
Pimentel asked Marcos to cooperate so the facilities do not have to be used. "I am appealing. Heto nakikiusap kami kung maaari si Gov. Imee Marcos para di tayo umabot sa puntong mag issue ng warrant of arrest," he said.
He said Marcos' testimony is both central and crucial as it could end the investigation.
"Di natin ma-close ang hearing because the main personality is Gov. Imee Marcos...She was the one who approved the voucher. She was the one who approved the purchase request. She was the one who approved the checks. So paano natin masasara itong hearing na ito di pa natin nakakausap ang head of agency? Pwede na kung mag attend si Governor Imee. Malamang matatapos na itong hearing na ito, the committee report will be prepared na."
Pimentel took the opportunity to deny that politics is behind the moves of the lower house, pointing out they are investigating an allegation of corruption.
"Walang pulitika. Baka nakalimutan ng publiko may anomalya na nangyari. Maybe we have forgotten there was illegal use of government funds, which was not used for its purpose," he said.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas earlier filed House Resolution 882, which asked the House of Representatives committee on good government to look into how P66.4 million from the provincial excise tax funds were used to purchase buses and mini-trucks through cash advances instead of public biddings.
Six officers of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte have been cited for contempt and ordered detained within the chamber's premises for their continued refusal to cooperate in the ongoing probe on the alleged anomalous purchases of vehicles.
Pimentel said it is important to find the truth about the purchase of vehicles.
"May anomalya na nangyari. Pulitika ang pinapasok ng media pero may nakakalimutan natin, may nilabag na batas. Ibig ba sabihin dahil ikaw isang Marcos, you are above the law? Ibig ba sabihin kung ikaw Marcos, exempted ka na sa batas?" he said.
Should the House succeed in detaining Marcos, it will be the first time since they fled Malacanang that a Marcos will be detained.
The significance is not lost on Pimentel.
"We have seen them flee the country. Nakita na po natin, you know very well, Marcoses are very powerful. Two of them are in power. The brother is a former senator. Sana naman justice will prevail. May nawalang pera sa kaban ng bayan. We are forgetting the issue."
Pimentel said detaining Marcos will be a tough job. "We know very well we're talking about not an ordinary person but an incumbent governor, a Marcos at that. We know how powerful the Marcoses are - it would be more difficult to arrest Governor Imee Marcos. The procedure is the sergeant-at-arms will serve the warrant with the support of the Philippine National Police and the military authorities."
The PNP and the Armed Forces are both under the executive branch led by President Duterte, who counts both Marcos and Fariñas as allies. Duterte has so far kept mum on the issue.
BONGBONG RISKS DETENTION?
But the governor is not the only one who risks detention. Former Senator Bongbong Marcos may also be held in contempt and haled to court for advising the governor to skip the hearing. Imee Marcos herself revealed her brother's advice.
Pimentel said this is analogous to Senator Leila de Lima's advice to her driver Ronnie Dayan to skip the House probe on the narcotics trade at the state penitentiary. De Lima has been slapped with an ethics complaint as well as a case before the Quezon City regional trial court.
"He is liable. Article 6 and Section 21 of the Constitution clearly mandates the Senate and Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation… Any person can be cited for contempt if he is causing undue interference," the lawmaker said.
"Bongbong Marcos is clearly interfering already. Ano sabi ni Gov. Imee Marcos? I really want to cooperate but my brother has advised me not to attend. We will discuss that on July 25. Again, I appeal to Bongbong Marcos not to advise anymore," he added.
Pimentel even said the siblings can share the same detention area.
The Court of Appeals justices are in the cross hairs of the House after they granted the petition for habeas corpus by the so-called Ilocos Norte 6, the provincial officials now detained by the House for refusing to answer questions on the alleged anomaly.
When the House refused to release them, the CA went after Detabali, which in turn prompted Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to call the justices "idiots."
The committee also voted to issue a show cause order against them so they can explain why they should not be cited for contempt. Should they be cited for contempt, they like the 6, will be detained, and that's why there is a detention center being readied for them.
Over the weekend, Alvarez floated the idea of impeaching Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno because she allegedly ordered the CA justices to disobey the show cause order.
Weeks ago, Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes urged the House to withdraw the show cause order and instead seek remedies before the Supreme Court. Sought for comment, Supreme Court Spokesperson Ted Te referred ABS-CBN to Sereno's and Reyes' earlier statement.
Pimentel said he would support such an impeachment but they first have to confirm if Sereno did issue such an order. "That's why we have to verify the statement. We don't really know if that's true
- that Chief Justice Sereno issued a statement ordering the CA justices to defy the show cause order. Because of this, Speaker Alvarez issued a statement also that we might file an impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno."
"If the Speaker will do that, I fully support the move of the Speaker."
The fight between Marcos and Fariñas has drawn criticisms because of the way the House has engaged the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government under the 1987 constitution.
Pimentel, however, explained it was the judiciary who first drew blood by allegedly disrespecting the authority of the House.
"Doon nga nagsimula. They should have respected our being co- equal. The power of contempt is not subject to judicial review. There is jurisprudence. there were 2 cases decided by the SC. In two cases, the SC decided to uphold the power of contempt of Congress. Doon nagsimula because ang CA nag-issue ng release order, which we do not recognize kaya nga tayo co-equal, papakialaman mo kami dito. We have our own rules...Dapat in-uphold nila power of contempt, dineny nila petition for writ of habeas corpus," he said.
The lawmaker said the House has not yet issued the show cause order for the CA justices. He said Detabali has sought the inhibition of the CA justices.
If the justices inhibit, then they will forego the show cause order.
"Ito po ang situation ngayon. I already signed the show cause order to the CA justices but there is a motion fielded by Detabali June 29, a motion for inhibition for Justices Stephen Cruz and Nina Valenzuela. Because of the motion for inhibition, we are holding in abeyance the show cause order. Pinapa-inhibit po natin sila. If they will not inhibit, we will issue the show cause order," he said.
Congress is currently on recess and will resume sessions on July 24, the day President Duterte delivers his 2nd State of the Nation Address.