The six officials of the Ilocos Norte provincial government may be released today, Tuesday, when the House of Representatives resumes its inquiry on the alleged misuse of the P66 million worth of tobacco funds.
Representative Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, chairman of the committee on good government, said, however, that this would depend on whether they would tell the truth about the multimillion-peso purchase of motor vehicles for farmers using tobacco funds without public bidding.
The six local officials have been detained at the Batasan Pambansa since May 29 after Pimentel’s panel cited them in contempt for their evasive answers during the congressional inquiry.
The Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals has ordered the release of Ilocos Norte treasurer Josephine Calajate, accountant Edna Batulayan, budget officer Evangeline Tabulog, bids and awards committee head Pedro Agcaoili, as well as Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor of the provincial treasurer’s office but Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez refused to comply.
“We will set them free right away, once they decide to tell the truth about the anomaly. We are really hoping they will change their minds by Tuesday, both for their sake and for the sake of public interest,” Pimentel said.
“They’ve actually refused to be served notices, so we may have to bodily carry them to the (third) hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday,” Pimentel added.
In previous hearings, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas repeatedly quizzed the Ilocos Norte officials, dubbed the “Ilocos 6”, if they had signed documents that allowed the release of the P66 million worth of tobacco funds. Fariñas had purchase copies in his possession but all of these were photocopies since the original were missing.
Members of the “Ilocos 6”, however, were evasive and said that they couldn’t confirm the existence of the documents held by Fariñas unless they could see the original copies that showed the purchase of the vehicles. LLANESCA T. PANTI