Sereno, CA to House: Observe separation of powers

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) is asking that the House of Representatives "reconsider" its show cause order issued Tuesday, June 20, to CA justices.

"It is our hope that the House of Representatives reconsider its order and that it instead, avail of all legal remedies that are provided to it under the Constitution, the law and the Rules of Court," CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes said in a joint statement with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday, June 21.

The House is asking CA justices to explain why they should not be held in contempt for ordering the release of Ilocos Norte officials, whom the lower chamber detained and is keeping detained despite a court order.

The officials were accused of being uncooperative in the committee investigation into the province's alleged misuse of tobacco funds. Also referred to as the “Ilocos 6” employees, they include Pedro Agcaoili, Evangeline Tabulog, Josephine Calajate, Eden Battulayan, Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor.

Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas tried to extract but failed to get answers from them during the congressional inquiry into the local government’s purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million. This was supposedly sourced from Ilocos Norte's share of tobacco excise taxes provided for by Republic Act 7171.

The 3 CA justices who ordered the provisional release of the Ilocos Norte employees are: Special 4th Division Acting Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz, Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela.

The deadlock situation highlights the check and balance role of the co-equal branches of the legislature and the judiciary. The response of the judiciary, backed up by the Chief Justice no less, reminds the House that the judiciary is not subservient to the legislature.

"We note that the House of Representatives is not without any speedy legal remedy that is consistent with the separation of powers should it disagree with the action of the Court of Appeals, such as an appeal," Sereno and Andres said.

Sereno and Reyes said they have "deep concerns" over the show cause order because of its "implications on separation of power and judicial independence."

Read in whole Sereno and Reyes' statement @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/X60lEUue4v — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) June 21, 2017

 

Show cause order

House Speaker Alvarez earlier called the 3 CA justices 'idiots' and even threatened to pass a law that would abolish the appellate court.

In his interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday, where he is applying to be the next SC Justice, Reyes reminded Alvarez that the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing a law reorganizing the judiciary if it undermines the security of tenure of members.

Cruz, who was also interviewed by the JBC, said on Monday the CA was merely doing its duty in issuing a writ of habeas corpus in favor of the detainees. 

"We want the bodies to be presented to the court and the person who is detaining them, and determine whether it is legal. Because if it is legal, we will dismiss the petition," Cruz said.

Cruz's colleague at the CA, Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang also reminded the Speaker: ""He must know the limits of his power."

Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, lead counsel of the 6 Ilocos Norte officials, said they must be released as soon as possible because the writ of habeas corpus issued by the CA is immediately executory. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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