The release of the six Ilocos Norte government officials currently detained at the House of Representatives will not depend on the participation of Governor Imee Marcos in the inquiry into the provincial government's supposedly irregular purchase of motor vehicles, Rep. Johnny Pimentel said Thursday.
"Hindi po, 'yung kay Imee lang po 'yun," Pimentel, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, told reporters at a news conference.
"Pero 'yung sa anim, ibang kaso po 'yun dahil sila ang dapat sumagot. Imee cannot answer for them," he added.
The House panel is investigating the provincial government's alleged use of tobacco excise tax shares to purchase P66.45 million worth of motor vehicles.
It has already issued a subpoena on Marcos directing her to appear in the July 25 hearing after she repeatedly failed to show up in the previous hearings.
Marcos' appearance and participation in the hearing, Pimentel said, would shed light on the issues they are investigating.
"Kapag tinanong si Imee at sumagot siya, mabuti po 'yun. There will be no need na gumawa pa ng hakbang ang committee na drastic," Pimentel said.
"If Imee answers questions, that doesn't mean na it resolves their (Ilocos 6) culpability," he added.
Collectively called the "Ilocos Six," Ilocos Norte provincial government officials Pedro Agcaoili, Evangeline Tabulog, Josephine Calajate, Eden Battulayan, Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor, have been detained at the Batasan Pambansa complex for refusing to answer queries of the panel about the purchase of the motor vehicles during previous hearings, explaining that they could no longer remember the same.
"On [the] June 20 hearing, sinabihan ko na po 'yung Ilocos 6, kung ready na po kayong sumagot sa mga tanong, we will convene immediately the committee and you will be released as long as you answer the questions truthfully," Pimentel said.
Focus on the actual issue
During the same press conference, Pimentel maintained that the issue should focus on the alleged anomalous use of the public funds and not the "legal tussle" that seems to be developing between the House of Representatives and Court of Appeals (CA).
"We would like to focus on the facts of this case. Because the subject matter has been muddled. Mas naha-highlight na tuloy ngayon 'yung tussle between the judiciary and the legislative," he said.
"Hindi po 'yung ang issue dito. Ang issue dito ay may nangyaring katiwalian na kino-conduct po natin ng inquiry," he added.
It will be recalled that the House issued a show cause order on three CA associate justices - Stephen Cruz, Nina Antonino-Valenzuela and Edwin Sorongon - directing them to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for ordering the release of the "Ilocos Six."
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. meanwhile have urged the House of Representatives to recall the show cause order.
The House of Representatives, however, has deferred the issuance of the show cause order pending the resolution of the motion to inhibit that they filed against two of the CA justices. — RSJ/KVD, GMA News