The detention center that the House of Representatives has prepared for Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos will have wifi connection, Rep. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur said on Monday.
Marcos’ air-conditioned detention “cell” also has a receiving room where she can entertain her guests.
“All in all, the detention center is around 70 to 80 square meters, plus the toilet and bath. She can bring her own bed. She can bring her food, but the House of Congress will also provide food,” Pimentel, who heads the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said.
“She can still perform her duties as provincial governor here. There will be wifi connection…she will have access to the Internet. She can bring her cellphone. Our rules are very liberal,” he told reporters who were allowed to view the detention center.
Marcos has ignored several invitations to attend the panel’s inquiry into the alleged misuse of P66 million tobacco funds.
Pimentel warned that his panel will issue an arrest order against Marcos if she fails to attend the next hearing on July 25.
“We are not saying that we are going to arrest her. We’ll just resort to that if she does not show up. As long as she answers our questions, we will not detain her. But if she doesn’t show up, then that’s a big problem for her.
No one is above the law,” he said. “If she is really innocent, she should show up. Otherwise, she is hiding something. Or she is afraid of something of not saying the right things. If you are innocent, you won’t be afraid of any investigation.”
House Sergeant at Arms Ronald Detabali said Marcos’ supporters are free to visit her.
“They’re free to have their own food. We will just be keeping an eye on sharp objects, for the detainee’s protection. If they want to hold a birthday party, we would help them. We will just be conducting inspection on the visitors who would want to see the detainees,” Detabali said.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte sought the investigation of the use of tobacco funds. He and Marcos had a falling out when the latter did not issue a Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA), a document that would have made Fariñas the official NP candidate for Ilocos Norte First District representative in the 2016 polls.
Pimentel said the congressional inquiry on tobacco funds is not about political vendetta.
“The public should not forget that there is an anomaly here. Government money was misused. This should be the focus here,” Pimentel said.
The House has detained for more than a month six officials of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte who were cited in contempt for giving evasive answers during one of the panel’s hearings.
The Court of Appeals has ordered the House to release the six officials but House leaders defied the order. Pimentel’s panel also threatened to issue an order directing the justices to explain why they should not be cited for contempt.
Over the weekend, Pimentel said his committee will not issue a show cause order if the three justices will recuse themselves from the case.
“We want them (CA justices belonging to the fourth division) to inhibit for being biased, prejudiced,” the lawmaker said.
Vow to cooperate
Marcos has vowed to cooperate with Pimentel’s panel in the conduct of its probe.
“I have expressed my willingness to cooperate with the Committee on Good Government on the faith that the committee would conduct its current inquiry in accordance with the letter and spirit of Sec. 21, Art. VI of the Constitution – that the inquiry is in aid of legislation and that the rights of persons appearing therein are protected,” she said in a statement.
Marcos explained that she had sent two letters to the committee to seek clarification on whether she was being asked by the panel to attend its hearings as a resource person.
However, she said her cooperation is not contingent on the panel’s response to her letters.
“Even as those letters did not merit any response from the Committee, my commitment to cooperate on constitutional grounds has not changed,” she said.
Marcos however maintained that it was wrong for the House to detain the six officials.
“As a former legislator, I also know that the power of legislative inquiry does not give Congress the power to deprive any citizen of constitutionally vested rights such as the rights to freedom of movement and to be presumed innocent until you are proven guilty. Neither does it vest Congress the power to act as a prosecutorial or judicial body that determines the innocence or guilt of anyone for any charge of misconduct. The judicial system, not Congress, is constitutionally empowered to do so,” she said.
“Were Congress to act as investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one, would not the principle of separation of powers be subverted by legislative tyranny?” Marcos asked.
The Ilocos Norte governor also criticized the House for threatening her with arrest should she fail to heed its panel’s summons, saying that it was unnecessary.
“The public threats directed to me on the certainty of my arrest and detention is extremely intimidating but unnecessary. I am already extremely intimidated by the manner the Ilocos Six were made to suffer the physical strain and mental torture of prolonged detention,” she said.
with a report from JOMAR CANLAS