Once one of the country's most powerful people, former First Lady Imelda Marcos was rebuffed on Tuesday by her colleagues in the House of Representatives when her request to release detained Ilocos Norte provincial officials was declined by the House Committee on Good Government.
The officials have been in detention for three weeks, after they were cited in contempt for “dismissive” answers in the May 29 hearing on the provincial government’s allegedly irregular purchase of P66.45 million worth of motor vehicles.
Marcos, now Ilocos Norte congresswoman, formally pleaded for the release of the so-called “Ilocos 6” in a letter addressed to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chair of the House panel.
The widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos also appeared at the start of the hearing on Tuesday afternoon to appeal for the following officers
- Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer;
- Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer;
- Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chair; and
- Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaor, and Eden Battulayan of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office.
In her letter, read by Pimentel at the continuation of the inquiry on Tuesday, the former first lady appealed for the release of the employees “on humanitarian purposes,” citing their ages and their “medical conditions.”
She said she would “vouch” for them and assured that they “shall appear and respect the invitations or subpoena issued to them.”
“The six detained public employees, the ‘Ilocos 6,’ are aged 47 to 63. Most, if not all of them have medical conditions that may worsen due to prolonged confinement. One of the six has cardiomyopathy, others have diabetes, one has a lumbar disability, and another has suffered a mild stroke. Also, they are parents and grandparents who have children and grandchildren who are depending on them for their daily needs. The sudden and prolonged interruption of their daily family routine has caused much anxiety to them and to their family members,” she wrote.
“Thus, I respectfully and graciously petition this Honorable Committee to release temporarily on my own recognizance the six detained provincial government employees,” she added. “Whatever mistakes they may have made, such answers through which they faltered, your mercy please, release the Ilocos 6 to their families so they will be better able to help this committee and my honorable congressmen find the truth.”
Marcos said she was appealing to House leaders’ sense of “compassion and sympathy."
“I am soon going to be 88 years old, and in the long eventful years of my existence I have found that it is not power but the milk of human kindness that makes us godly, not influence or privilege or pride, for true greatness is wrought by love—love for the small and helpless, and, like me and the Ilocos employees, the elderly and weak,” she said.
Pimentel, however, said such cannot be done unless the employees finally answer questions regarding the unauthorized purchase of vehicles - made using part of the province’s share of the excise tax on locally manufactured Virginia-type cigarette.
The panel chair also called on Marcos to advise the employees to tell the committee what they know.
“Much as we would like to release the detainees, we really cannot grant the request. They have been cited in contempt… If you can advise them to answer truthfully, they will be set free,” he said.
After missing the first hearing, the employees finally appeared before the committee on May 29, but repeatedly said they can no longer remember the transactions in question.
This prompted Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas—himself a former governor of the province—to have them cited for contempt, which led to their detention.
The six officials had sought relief from the Court of Appeals, which granted their petition seeking the writ of habeas corpus and ordered the House sergeant-at-arms, retired Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, to bring them before the court.
The House leadership, however, maintained that the CA did not have jurisdiction over the matter, and reportedly rejected three attempts for the release order to be served.
The appellate court’s Special Fourth Division also proceeded with its contempt of court proceedings against Detabali and Alvarez. —NB/KVD, GMA News