SC defers action on Imee petition to halt House probe


Posted at Jul 18 2017 04:01 PM

MANILA - Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her six detained provincial officials on Tuesday failed to secure an immediate order from the Supreme Court stopping the House of Representatives' investigation into the alleged misappropriation of P66.45-million in the capitol's tobacco excise tax disbursements in 2011 and 2012.

Supposed to be discussed in Tuesday's en banc session, the case was instead re-raffled as the member-in-charge inhibited, Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing. He did not say who the magistrate was.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and just appointed Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. also recused themselves, he said. The two had earlier issued a statement related to the case.

Marcos last week filed an omnibus petition seeking liberty for her employees, an order “enjoining and prohibiting” the conduct of the House investigation, and the issuance of the writ of amparo or protection as she also faced detention for missing the hearings. 

The House Committee on Good Government and Accountability has held the 6 provincial financial officers since May 29 for allegedly refusing to cooperate in the inquiry.

In the hearing, the officials repeatedly said they could not remember the transactions. Committee members were irked at their "refusal to answer questions," and decided to hold the officials in contempt, detaining them at the House.

Responding to a petition for habeas corpus, the Court of Appeals then ordered that the detained employees be presented at its hearings. The House did not comply with the order.

The appellate court later granted the employees' petition for bail and ordered their release. The House also defied this court order, with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even threatening to dissolve the CA, which he emphasized was only created by law.

Alvarez and other House leaders also maintained that their power of contempt is not subject to judicial review. 

The CA and the House have since traded show cause orders compelling each other to explain why they should not be cited in contempt. 

Amid the seeming standoff, Sereno and Andres, at the time still Court of Appeals Presiding Justice, also asked the House to recall the show cause order. 

In her press briefing last week, Marcos said the controversy is rooted to an early “jockeying” for local positions in her province, where House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas' family has a stake.

“We all know this is local politics. Kinaladkad sa Kongreso at inapi ang mga walang kalaban-laban na empleyado,” she said. 

(We all know this is local politics. Dragged into Congress and oppressed the defenseless employees.)

The House committee is also looking into a separate inquiry after it found out that the Commission on Audit had flagged five other Ilocos Norte projects in 2012 for the questionable use of cash advances.