Alvarez calls CA justices ‘idiots’ over detention case of Ilocos Norte officials

Mara Cepeda
Alvarez calls CA justices ‘idiots’ over detention case of Ilocos Norte officials
The House of Representatives rejects a Court of Appeals ruling ordering an explanation for detaining 6 Ilocos Norte officials who were deemed uncooperative in a committee hearing

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez did not mince words against 3 Court of Appeals (CA) justices who ordered him to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for refusing to release the 6 Ilocos Norte officials still detained at the House. 

“That’s gross ignorance of the law. Mga gago ‘yang 3 justices na ‘yan! (Those 3 justices are idiots!)” Alvarez, a lawyer, told reporters on Wednesday, June 14.

The Speaker was asked to react after CA Special 4th Division Acting Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz issued a show cause order against him and House Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for ignoring a June 9 ruling to provisionally release the officials. (READ: House defies CA order to release detained Ilocos Norte officials)

Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela concurred with Cruz’s order. 

The following Ilocos Norte officials have been detained since May 29 by the House committee on good government and public accountability during its hearing on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles:

  • Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairperson
  • Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer
  • Eden Battulayan, provincial accountant
  • Encarnacion Gaor, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff
  • Genedine Jambaro, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff
  • Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer

During the hearing, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who is also Ilocos Norte 1st district representative, had presented documents bearing the signatures of the said officials that were used to buy mini-cabs, secondhand buses, and Foton trucks using the tobacco funds. 

All 6 Ilocos Norte officials said they couldn’t remember the purchases anymore given the many transactions they had processed. They refused to comment on the documents and asked the committee to show them the original copies. 

This then prompted Fariñas to cite the officials in contempt and have them detained by Detabali at the House Legistlative Building. 

The Ilocos Norte officials, through their legal counsels and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, then sought for the CA to issue them a writ of habeas corpus.

The lawyers reasoned their clients did not categorically said they are refusing to answer the lawmakers’ questions, but merely requested for the original copies so they could properly verify. 

The CA granted their request for provisional release on June 9, with a bail of P30,000 each.

But the House leaders have refused to recognize the CA ruling, saying they have questioned the appellate court’s authority over congressional contempt powers.  

“It is a case pending in the CA. Let the arguments be made in court by the respective parties,” said Fariñas. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.