HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez threatened to file disbarment cases against three Court of Appeals (CA) justices for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials accused of misusing P66 million worth of tobacco funds.
Alvarez was referring to Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairman; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer; Eden Battulayan; Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro, provincial accountant. All six were detained at the Batasang Pambansa on May 29 after they were cited for contempt over evasive answers during the congressional inquiry sought by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
Alvarez noted that the tobacco fund was misused because it was spent for the purchase of unregistered, second-hand multi-cabs worth P480,0000 each, without public bidding, and cash advances made without provincial board approval.
Fariñas had repeatedly quizzed the six officials about the original purchase order of the multi-cabs and who received the cash advances for such transactions, but the officers did not give answers.
“The checks [for cash advances]are worth P30 million each. When we asked who accepted the check, they can’t remember. And all the documents under the provincial government are missing. What do we do in that situation? This is simple: the key to their release is them. They should tell us the truth. They don’t have to go to court,” Alvarez, a lawyer, argued.
“[So] we will file disbarment cases [against the CA justices for clear ignorance of the law. I won’t honor their order. They are exceeding their boundaries when CA is not even our co-equal branch. CA exists because Congress created it. We can dissolve CA anytime. They should think long and hard first,” Alvarez added.
The CA was established through appointments by then President Manuel L. Quezon. After the end of the World War 2 in 1945, it was abolished and reestablished through legislation a year after.
Alvarez also linked one of the three CA Justices, Nina Antonio-Valenzuela, to lawyer Estelito Mendoza who served as the legal counsel of the so-called “Ilocos 6.”
Alvarez said that Valenzuela’s husband was a former associate of Mendoza, hence Valenzuela should inhibit from the case out of delicadeza.
The other CA Fourth Division justices are Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz and Erwin Sorongon.
Llanesca T. Panti