The House of Representatives has defied anew a Court of Appeals (CA) order to release six employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government who were earlier detained by a committee inquiring into the local government’s purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million, which was sourced from its share of tobacco excise taxes.
Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, lead counsel for the so-called “Ilocos Six” employees, said that the House of Sergeant-At-Arms (SAA) has rejected a third attempt of the CA sheriff to serve the release order.
Mendoza said House leaders have previously ignored the CA release order that was transmitted to the chamber on June 9 and 10.
House officials have insisted that the CA's order was invalid and that the appeals court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Mendoza, however, insisted that the Supreme Court, the CA, and the Regional Trial Court (RTC) can serve the release order because they have “concurrent” jurisdiction when it comes to habeas corpus cases, he argued.
Mendoza quoted Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rodolfo "Rudy" C. Fariñas as saying in a media interview in Ilocos Norte that it was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who had instructed House SAA Lt. Gen. Roland M. Detabali (ret.) to disregard the CA’s order.
The CA’s Special Fourth Division has already started its contempt of court proceedings against Speaker Alvarez and the House SAA, serving them show cause orders to explain why they refused to present the six detained employees before the appellate court.
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos had earlier appeared before the CA to support the bid of the "Ilocos 6" to be freed from detention at the Batasan Pambansa.
Vicente Lazo, another legal counsel for the Ilocos 6, had urged the House legislators to honor the rule of law, stressing that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that countries like the Philippines are "under obligation to make available to every person detained all remedies that will safeguard his fundamental right to liberty, these remedies includes the right to bail.”
“So it’s not true that the writ of habeas corpus is meaningless. We adhere to the rules of law, thus the six detained employees believe that they have the right to avail for anything that will secure their right to liberty, hence availing the right to bail,” Lazo said.
“Ang problema, sabi ni Cong. Fariñas wala daw magagawa ‘yung habeas corpus. Walang nangyayari kasi nga they are defying the court order,” he added, citing that the CA has granted them the order for the House to “immediately” release the "Ilocos Six," however, this has been defied thrice.
Lazo lamented how his clients had been subjected under "mental torture" during the congressional inquiry.
“Mula sa umpisa sa imbestigasyon ng kaso hanggang ngayon, torture na ‘yang ginagawa nila sa anim na dinetain,” he said. The six employees were detained after being cited in contempt by Fariñas for being “evasive” and “refusing to answer questions.”
Lazo however pointed out that they "did not say 'I refuse to answer, Your Honor.' What they said was, 'Those are photocopies. If we could find the originals, we could answer your questions and verify.'"
The CA last week directed, through a writ of habeas corpus, the House sergeant-at-arms to bring to the court the following Ilocos Norte provincial government employees: Pedro Agcaoili, chair of the bids and awards committee and the provincial and planning development unit; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Edna Battulayan, accountant; Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer; and Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor, who are assigned at the treasury office.
The Ilocos Norte officials, over the weekend, already said they would be filing charges against officials of the House of Representatives who “perpetrated the cruel, oppressive, and coercive interrogation” last May 29. — MDM, GMA News