• Provoking a constitutional crisis

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    ALBERT GAMBOA

    More thrilling than the upcoming Pacquiao-Horn fight in Brisbane, Australia, is the latest show in town: Congressmen VS Justices.

    The House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability has issued a show-cause order to three Court of Appeals (CA) justices, asking them to explain why they should not be held in contempt for encroaching on the legislative body’s turf. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called them “gago” and threatened to dissolve the CA, which he does not consider as a co-equal branch of government.

    This came after the magistrates belonging to the CA’s special fourth division ordered the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial government employees from House detention. The so-called “Ilocos 6” then petitioned the appellate court to issue a writ of habeas corpus, which the CA granted but was rebuffed three times by the Speaker.

    Since May 29, the House sergeant-at-arms has detained the Ilocos 6 inside the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City. They were invited as resource persons at the committee’s investigation into an alleged irregular procurement of P66.5 million worth of vehicles by the provincial government under Governor Imee Marcos.

    House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas initiated this inquiry, during which the six employees allegedly refused to answer questions properly. The committee cited them for contempt and ordered them detained until they could give answers to the satisfaction of the legislators.

    Now comes Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the defense of these three officials of the judiciary. In a joint statement with CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, the heads of the two highest courts of the land expressed “deep concern over the show-cause order” and recognized “its implications on separation of powers and judicial independence.”

    Their contention is that the House can always avail of legal remedies provided to it by the Constitution, the law and the rules of court that are consistent with the separation of powers should it disagree with the CA’s action. “It is our hope that the House of Representatives reconsider its order,” they said.

    Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, counsel for the Ilocos 6, believes that the continued detention of the Ilocos 6 constitutes psychological torture and

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