LMP-Ilocos Norte calls for impartial probe on tobacco funds ‘misuse’

LMP-Ilocos Norte calls for impartial probe on tobacco funds ‘misuse’


LAOAG CITY — The League of Mayors of the Philippines (LMP)-Ilocos Norte Chapter has urged the House committee on good government and public accountability to conduct a fair investigation on the issue of alleged misuse of tobacco funds, which the Ilocos Norte provincial government currently faces.

Led by Dingras Mayor Erdio Valenzuela, president of the LMP Ilocos Norte, the mayor’s league here unanimously passed a whole-page resolution no. 2017-06 on Monday afternoon, denouncing any unfair and malicious intent to detain Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa Marcos.

Citing the “effective and excellent leadership” of the Marcos administration in making Ilocos Norte a progressive province, the LMP resolution states, “the ongoing investigation in aid of legislation pending before the House of Representatives somehow impedes the program thrusts and policies of the provincial government that are intended to promote the welfare and interest of the people.”

The next hearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability is set on July 25. Its chairman, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, has issued a subpoena to Marcos and expects the latter to later to show up.

What alarmed local officials here is the act of the committee chairman in conducting a media tour to the supposed detention room of the governor.

“The action or gestures of the chairman created an impression in the minds of our constituents that the governor may not be given a chance to a fair investigation, and that her detention is seriously sought too,” said in the resolution.

Should the governor appear in the House inquiry, Valenzuela reiterated that authorities should give the governor a “fair chance in the investigation, with all the rights to be afforded in her favor, in accordance with the rule of law, fairness and justice.”

Early on, Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” C. Fariñas of the first district of Ilocos Norte introduced House Resolution No. 882, directing the committee “to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, of the alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte’s tobacco excise tax.

Specifically, Ilocos Norte had used tobacco funds in 2011 and 2012 to purchase motor vehicles which were then delivered to tobacco farmers and barangay captains as post-harvest facilities used in transporting goods from farm to market. The provincial government, however, has been accused of purchasing said vehicles in cash advances without proper bidding and were allegedly, overpriced.

Hearings were held on May 2, 16, 29, and on June 20, with the third resulting in the detention of six PGIN employees, dubbed “Ilocos Six,” for allegedly refusing to answer questions. Their legal counsels however pointed out that they had not refused to answer, but asked to see original documents before they could confirm or deny anything under oath.

The House Committee had only presented photocopies of vouchers and other documents, claiming that PGIN had lost the originals on purpose; however, the originals had already been submitted to the Commission on Audit (COA) years ago.

Provisional release of the “Ilocos Six” was ordered by the Court of Appeals (CA) early in June and thereafter backed by the Supreme Court (SC), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA), but the House has continually defied the rule of law. LGA/PNA-northboundasia.com