MANILA — Three justices of Supreme Court decided to inhibit from hearing the omnibus petition filed by Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos and the six detained provincial officials to stop the congressional probe on the alleged misuse of PHP66.45 million tobacco funds by the Ilocos Norte government.
SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.
The three magistrates were Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, to whom the case was assigned, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and newly appointed Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr.
“The Omnibus Petition was re-raffled upon the inhibition of the Member-in-Charge. The Chief Justice and Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr. also recused themselves,” Te told reporters during the press briefing held at SC.
The case was raffled to Peralta but he recused himself from participating in the case as he is a relative of one of the respondents, House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas.
Sereno and Reyes also inhibited from the case after earlier issuing a joint statement calling on the House committee on good government and public accountability to recall its show cause order against the three Court of Appeals (CA) justices who ordered the release of the “Ilocos 6.”
The high court was supposed to tackle the case in regular session on Tuesday.
Because of the inhibition, the SC had to set another raffle to determine which magistrate will be assigned as member-in-charge of the case. The justices then decided to reset deliberations on the case to their next session on July 25.
In their 67-page omnibus petition filed last July 13, the petitioners asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the investigation of the House committee on good government and also asked SC to order the release of the six provincial officials and assume jurisdiction on the writ of habeas corpus case pending before the Court of Appeals (CA), who earlier ordered for their release but was ignored by the House body.
Aside from this, the petitioners asked the Court to issue a writ of amparo against the said House Committee in order “to protect the actual and threatened violations and infringement of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to liberty and security of person.”
The committee on good government and public accountability has been conducting an investigation into the provincial government’s alleged misuse of tobacco excise funds amounting to PHP66.45 million.
Six provincial government officials have been in House detention since May 29 after they were held in contempt for giving “evasive answers”.
They elevated the case to the High Tribunal after the House repeatedly and deliberately defied the order of the CA special fourth division for their release.
The six Ilocos Norte officials currently detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City are provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate; provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; provincial planning and development office chair Pedro Agcaoili; and Provincial Treasurer’s Office employees Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaor, and Eden Battulayan.
The mode used in the purchase of vehicles was through cash advances, using the province’s share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171.
Under RA 7171, the 15 percent share of Virginia tobacco producing provinces shall be allotted for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects as a special support for tobacco farmers.
The petition named as respondents House majority leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, House committee chair and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel and House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA-northboundasia.com