A magistrate of the Court of Appeals (CA), who earned the ire of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for ordering the release of the so-called Ilocos 6 or the provincial employees of Ilocos Norte who were detained by the House of Representatives, is defending his ruling against the chamber.
Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, when asked by retired SC Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council Executive Committee, why his division issued the writ of habeas corpus, he replied that he was merely doing his job.
“To determine really if the detention was legal, we wanted the bodies presented to the court together with the person detaining them and determine whether it [detention]is legal,” Cruz said.
“But you ordered the release, that means you determined that the detention was illegal. Why did you issue the writ if you have yet to determine [whether the detention is legal]?” Gutierrez asked.
“Your honor, please, that was pursuant to a case, Enrile vs Salazar, where persons subject of a writ of habeas corpus, while the merits are being determined, can be released on bail,” Cruz said.
Alvarez had slammed Cruz, along with Associate Justices Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela of the Special Fourth Division, who ordered the detained employees released on bail.
The Speaker said Congress is co-equal with the courts and cannot be ordered to do the latter’s bidding.
“For me, they have no jurisdiction over us. Who are they to dictate on Congress on what to do? We have rights that have been upheld by the Supreme Court a number of times,” Alvarez added.
“They [Court of Appeals] only exist because they were created by Congress. Anytime, we can dissolve them… That’s really gross ignorance of the law. That is why I will not honor their order,” he said.
The “Ilocos 6” have been detained since May 29 at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City for their refusal to shed light on alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy vehicles under the watch of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.
They are Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairman; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Eden Battulayan, Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro, all Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; and Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer.
Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, counsel for the provincial employees, disclosed that the House leadership, the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability and the House of Sergeant-at-Arms again rejected the third bid of the CA sheriff to serve the order for their immediate release.
The House of Representatives has refused to comply with the June 9 and 10 orders of the Court of Appeals to bring the “Ilocos 6” to court.
Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Farinas said in a media interview in Ilocos Norte that the writ of habeas corpus could not do anything, citing the position of the Solicitor General.