SC clears House panel over Ilocos 6 detention
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) cleared the House committee on good government and public accountability as it dismissed all the complaints filed against them by Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and the 6 provincial officials who were detained for nearly two months.
“The Court dismissed the omnibus petition for habeas corpus, prohibition, injunctive relief, and Amparo as against the show cause order issued by respondent Committee of the House of Representatives,” the SC said in an announcement on Tuesday, July 10.
This decision is expected to ease the tension between the judicial and legislative branches of government.
The issue forced a showdown between the two branches, prompting House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to lash out against justices of the Court of Appeals who wanted the provincial officials released.
The House freed the officials on its own decision, and not upon compliance to the court order.
But insofar as the decision to the specific complaints filed before it, the High Court cleared the House of liabilities over the issue.
The so-called Ilocos 6 filed a petition for habeas corpus, which, if granted, would compel a unit to release a person from detention.
The provincial officials were detained for 57 days inside the House of Representatives on contempt charges, as lawmakers said the local officials were being uncooperative in the investigation into alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte’s tobacco funds.
The Ilocos 6 officials were released on July 25, 2017.
“The Court found that the habeas corpus aspect was rendered moot and academic by the release of petitioners,” the SC said.
The Ilocos 6 also filed for a petition of writ of Amparo, which is a protective remedy. In certain cases where a writ is issued, the court also issues protection orders, such as restraining respondents from going near the petitioners. This was not granted to the officials for lack of threat.
“The writ of Amparo will not lie as there is no legal or factual justification therefor in the absence of an extralegal killing or an enforced disappearance, or threats thereof,” the SC said.
The High Court also dismissed the petition for prohibition filed by Marcos, who accused the committee of committing grave abuse of discretion in conducting the investigation in aid of legislation.
“The prohibition aspect finds no justification as the Court found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondents,” the SC said.
During the investigation into tobacco funds, the committee also discovered irregularities in the purchase of vehicles.
The committee recently released its report recommending the filing of administrative and criminal cases against officials and employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government who were part of the anomalous purchase of vehicles.
In a statement Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who is also representative of Ilocos Norte, thanked the Supreme Court for upholding the power of the House to detain the officials and to compel Governor Marcos' appearance.
"Our actions were all supported by the law and jurisprudence on the matter. It is unfortunate that they (Ilocos Norte officials) chose to commit such contumacious acts that led them to be cited in contempt of the HOR and to be detained until they purged themselves of such contempt," he said.
Fariñas, along with Pampanga 2nd District Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr and Pampanga 4th District Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc, sought the investigation into Ilocos Norte's questionable use of the tobacco funds. – Rappler.com