House refuses to release detained Ilocos officials

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The House of Representatives will not release the six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials detained at the chamber’s home 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.

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House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte still refused to free the detainees despite the latter’s petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus before the Court of Appeals on Friday

The petition was filed by the provincial officials’ counsel, Da Vinci Crisostomo.

The six detained in House Legislative Building since May 29 are Pedro Agcaoili (Provincial Planning and Development Office chairman); Josephine Calajate (provincial treasurer); Eden Battulayan (Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff); Encarnacion Gaor (Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff); Genedine Jambaro (Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff) and Evangeline Tabulog (provincial budget officer).

It was Fariñas’ House Resolution 882 that precipitated the inquiry into the usage of shares from excise taxes imposed on locally-manufactured Virginia-type cigarettes.

“Under our Rules, until they stop their contemptuous act of giving evasive answers, meaning refusal to answer… I don’t think any man of sound mind, moreover, Appellate Court justices, would believe them,” Fariñas said in a statement.

He was referring to Jambaro, who claimed in the congressional probe that she cannot remember receiving two cash advances amounting to P32 million and P18 million, for the purchase of the 110 minicabs and five buses four years ago.

Fariñas accused Gaor of receiving P15.3 million for the purchase of the vehicles.

“They said they could not remember anything, and that was the same excuse given by the Provincial Treasurer, Accountant, Budget Officer and the Planning Development Coordinator who requested their purchase. These people even claim they could not remember if there were such transactions. There is a clear conspiracy to hide or cover up these alleged misuse of funds for overpriced motor vehicles acquired through cash advances,” the congressman, a lawyer, pointed out.

Fariñas noted that as soon as the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability began its investigation of the matter, all the documents concerning the purchase of such vehicles were stolen from the Commission on Audit in the Ilocos Norte provincial capitol.

He said the offices of the Provincial Treasurer, Accountant, Budget Officer and Development Coordinator have destroyed all their files.

“I hope they won’t rob also the banks of their records of the three checks involving the cash advances,” Fariñas added.

Fariñas and Marcos used to be party-mates in the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Marcos, however, did not issue a Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (Cona) to Fariñas for the 2016 elections–a required document to make Fariñas the official NP candidate for the congressional seat of the 1st District of Ilocos Norte.

It was unclear why Marcos refused to issue the CONA to Fariñas.

Since he was not issued the CONA, Fariñas joined then-ruling party Liberal Party (LP) that fielded former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd for the 2016 presidential race.

Roxas lost to then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte by over nine million votes.

Shortly after the elections, Fariñas joined the ruling party PDP-Laban and was eventually named the House Majority Leader of the 17th Congress. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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