MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is already preparing the room where Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos may be detained if she snubs a House hearing on July 25, which she was subpoenaed to attend.
House committee on good government and public accountability chairperson Johnny Pimentel said on Tuesday, June 27, that they started the preparations after Marcos announced she will be snubbing the probe into the alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles. (READ: House warns Imee Marcos: Attend probe or face arrest)
"We had the chamber prepared right after Governor Marcos publicly declared that she will dodge our July 25 hearing, despite our subpoena and show cause order compelling her to explain satisfactorily why she should not be held in contempt for her brazen defiance," said Pimentel.
"She'll be okay in detention, though she might miss certain luxuries, considering the high life she's accustomed to," added the lawmaker, alluding to the ill-gotten wealth acquired by the Marcoses during the 21-year rule of the family patriarch, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The House panel has been investigating Ilocos Norte's purchase of 40 mini-cabs, 5 secondhand buses, and 70 Foton mini trucks amounting to P66.45 million.
The money used was from the province's tobacco funds. Under Republic Act Number 7171, 15% of cigarette excise taxes shall be allotted for a special support fund for tobacco farmers, but the money should only be used for cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.
The House already detained 6 Ilocos Norte officials for giving "dismissive" answers during the probe. (READ: Ilocos Norte execs want CA to declare House detention a form of 'torture')
The good government and public accountability panel also issued a subpoena for Marcos herself to attend the next hearing on July 25.
But the governor said she will not be attending after her brother, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, advised against it.
"I really want to attend. I want to explain myself in Congress but others said I should not. Bongbong told me I could also be detained," said the governor in a press conference on June 23.
She previously wrote a letter to the House committee maintaining the purchases were aboveboard. Pimentel and the rest of the panel members, however, said that was not enough.
"The governor has already tried to explain in media interviews where the money went, how it was spent, and so on. Why can't she just dutifully show up at our hearing, hand in the documents that her staff couldn't produce, recount her remarks under oath, and submit herself to a proper cross-examination by the committee?" said Pimentel.
If Marcos fails to attend on July 25, the House is allowed to cite her in contempt and have her arrested for ignoring the subpoena.
Last year, the House arrested Ronnie Dayan for ignoring a subpoena to appear during the probe into the New Bilibid Prison drug trade. Dayan is the former driver, bodyguard, and lover of Senator Leila de Lima, who is accused of extorting money from drug convicts to fund her campaign.