Governor Imee Marcos and the six detained officials of the Ilocos Norte provincial government asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday to stop the congressional inquiry on the local government's use of its share of tobacco excise taxes.
The petitioners called on the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the probe initiated by the House committee on good government and public accountability, which is set to hold another hearing on July 25.
The petitioners also asked the SC to assume jurisdiction over the writ of habeas corpus case, order the release of the six employees and issue a writ of amparo "given the actual and threatened violation" of their right to liberty.
"Petitioners are careful to assert that they do not question the legislature's constitutional power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, including the power to cite and punish for contempt," the petition stated.
"The existence of such power or authority, however, does not give the legislature a blanket, all-encompassing and absolute dominion over witnesses, resource persons, or other participants in such an investigation," it added.
Marcos accused the respondent-House leaders of committing grave abuse of discretion and violating the resource persons' constitutional rights in a legislative inquiry.
Marcos insisted that local politics was behind the House inquiry on the local government officials of Ilocos Norte.
They said the hearings have "strayed from being 'an inquiry in aid of legislation' and devolved into a full-blown inquisition aimed at seeking coerced confessions through methods (prolonged interrogation, indefinite detention, threats, intimidation and torture) and violative of basic human rights."
"Ang trabaho ng Kongreso ay maghain at gumawa ng batas... investigations in aid of legislation, not investigations in aid of persecution of political opponents," she added.
In the case of Marcos, the petition cited the continued threats from some congressmen of her impending arrest and detention despite her public declaration to cooperate with the inquiry.
Marcos' supporters have already urged her not to attend the House hearing because she might end up suffering the same fate of the Ilocos 6 of being cited in contempt and subsequently detained.
Apart from Marcos, the other petitioners in the plea filed with the SC on Thursday are the detained employees, namely, Josephine Calajate, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro, Evangeline Tabulog, Pedro Agcaoili Jr. and Eden Battulayan.
Named respondents in the petition were House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, and House Sergeant-At-Arms retired Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali.
The six employees were detained on May 29 by the House panel that is inquiring into the provincial government’s purchase of motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million using the tobacco excise tax.
They were detained after allegedly failing to give satisfactory answers to congressmen regarding the purchases.
The CA Special Fourth Division had thrice ordered the release of the employees, and each time the House leadership ignored the order, arguing the appellate court had no jurisdiction over the contempt powers of the legislature.
The House panel responded by deciding to issue a show cause order against the CA division, led by its acting presiding justice Stephen Cruz and members Justices Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez went as far as to threaten to abolish the appellate court, which is a creation of Congress, and disbar the three justices in the CA division who issued the orders. — MDM/KVD, GMA News