Fariñas mulls charges vs Ilocos Norte board members

MANILA — Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas is planning to file graft charges against the members of the Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial council) for declaring him persona non grata in the province.

In a group message to House reporters, Fariñas said members of the provincial board cannot declare him or any Filipino citizen a persona non grata, noting that such declaration only applies to aliens or foreigners in the context of diplomatic relations.

Fariñas said he would file cases against the eight Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan members for causing him “undue injury thru evident bad faith”.

“I will file cases against them for damages for the violation of my constitutional rights, as well as for a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing me undue injury thru evident bad faith,” he said.

“I am a citizen of this country and no one, especially sangguniang panlalawigan members, can declare me, or any other citizen of this country, a persona non grata. Not even convicted criminals are declared as such,” he added.

Fariñas said the persona non grata declaration of the provincial council in terms of non-diplomatic usage would only be construed as a form of “ostracizing” against him.

“Such a person is for all intents and purposes culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively non-existent. That is what those eight have done to me,” he added.

This is the recent development after six Ilocos Norte government officials have been in House detention since May 29 for their “contemptuous act of giving evasive answers”.

Through Fariñas’ House Resolution No 882, 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.

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.

Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos was subpoenaed last month to attend the fourth hearing on July 25 after she repeatedly snubbed the House panel’s invitations.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said the arrest and detention of Marcos will be “sure as the sun rising tomorrow” if the latter continues to snub the fourth House hearing.

“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,” Pimentel said.

“She’ll be okay in detention, though she might miss certain luxuries, considering the high life she’s accustomed to,” he added. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com