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Imee Marcos denies anomaly in P66.45-M motor vehicles purchase

Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos has denied the alleged irregular purchase of P66.45-million motor vehicles in her province using tobacco excise tax shares, the subject of a controversial Congressional inquiry in which she is involved.

This, amid the subpoena issued against her by the House of Representatives to appear in the July 25 hearing on the case to shed light on the issue.

"[T]he specific transactions being condemned as irregular in the [House] resolution have not been found to be irregular in both pre- and post-audit reports of the Commission on Audit (COA), and the funds used have been used for the direct benefit of the intended beneficiaries,” Marcos said in a statement issued through her laywer, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.

"The transactions being questioned complied with the procurement law and the conditions for lawful cash advances have been fully complied with. The supposed Audit Observation Memorandum drafted by the COA on one transaction was not issued officially. It is proof that the COA itself found its issuance without basis consistent with its final audit findings," she added.

House probe

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability is investigating the provincial government's alleged use of tobacco excise tax shares to purchase P66.45 million worth of motor vehicles.

According to ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera, who presented the facts of the case to the media on Thursday, the provincial government supposedly purchased 40 mini-cabs, five buses and 70 Foton mini-trucks from 2011 to 2012 without conducting proper public bidding.

He added that according to the Land Transportation Office, none of the vehicles in question are registered under the provincial government.

Marcos, daughter of the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., insisted that the vehicles in question are existing and not overpriced.

"Are the mini-trucks overpriced? The testimony of the Foton official in the hearing confirms that Foton multicabs are priced much higher than the mini-trucks purchased," she said.

"Are the vehicles missing? They are all accounted for and are being used by the beneficiaries,” she added.

'Ilocos 6'

Marcos likewise appealed to the House of Representatives to implement the order of the Court of Appeals (CA) to release the six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials currently detained at the Batasan Pambansa complex.

"I appeal, for humanitarian reasons, to the House leadership to set free the Ilocos Six. They have suffered more than enough. Please allow them to go home. You have families too, and you know the pain of being separated from them,” she said.

"They have already testified to the best of their knowledge. Forcing them, through prolonged detention, to give false testimony just to satisfy the Committee is tantamount to compelling them to commit perjury. Please, set them free," she added.

The six 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.

Following the order to release, the chamber issued a show cause order against CA associate justices Stephen Cruz, Nina Antonino-Valenzuela and Edwin Sorongon, directing them to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for issuing such order.

Political vendetta

For Marcos, "political vendetta" may have led to this impasse between the Congress and the judiciary.

"Political vendetta cannot justify putting the legislature and the judiciary on a collision course at the expense of the rights of hapless citizens. I appeal for sobriety, civility and respect for the inviolability of the rights of citizens hand in hand with respect for the separation of powers of the co-equal branches of government,” she said.

“I pray that the House of Representatives, in which I spent nine years as a legislator, would rise above petty local political conflicts and keep being true to its mandate to pass responsive laws for the welfare of our countrymen,” she added.

Nevertheless, Marcos welcomed the House inquiry, noting that it would be an opportunity to amend Republic Act 7171, which aims to promote the development of farmers in Virginia-type tobacco producing provinces.

She added that it will also give her the chance to clear up some issues regarding the alleged anomalous transactions.

“I welcome the inquiry on specific transactions of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte mentioned in the resolution," she said.

Marcos has earlier manifested her intention to cooperate in the ongoing probe, which is set to resume on July 25.

“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....," she said in a statement issued Sunday. —KBK/KVD, GMA News

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