MANILA — The chairman of the House committee on justice on Monday called for the outright dismissal of the petition filed before the Supreme Court to stop the congressional probe on the alleged misuse of PHP66.45 million tobacco funds by the Ilocos Norte government.
In a news conference, House justice panel chair Reynaldo Umali argued that the petition filed by Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and the six provincial officials in House detention is a violation of the constitutional principles and a manipulation of the judicial system.
Umali further lamented that there has been “prostitution” of the Constitution and of the judicial system with the legal tussle between the legislature and the judiciary as the petitioners sought judicial relief from the high court.
“Because of the occurring manipulation of lawyers and their clients, the Constitution itself is being prostituted and the principles underlying it,” Umali said.
“It damages the institutions like the HOR and Congress, legislature and the judiciary. This should not have happened if only we will stick by our respective mandate,” he added.
Umali said the judiciary should show respect to the House of Representatives, which has the legal mandate to conduct congressional inquiries in aid of legislation.
The Oriental Mindoro lawmaker pointed out that the matter is in the realm of political questions which is beyond the power of judicial review.
“It’s all about respect and all about the underlying principles,” Umali said.
In a 67-page omnibus petition, 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”.
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. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com