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Imee Marcos, Ilocos Six fail to get SC reprieve as justices recuse from hearing plea

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and the six detained officials of the provincial government on Tuesday failed to secure immediate relief from the Supreme Court (SC) against the House of Representatives' inquiry into the capitol's alleged misuse of tobacco excise tax funds.

At a press briefing, SC spokesperson Theodore Te said the petition was re-raffled since the justice in charge inhibited from the case.

It was learned that the case was initially raffled off to Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who administered the oath of office of former First Lady Imelda Marcos and son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as Ilocos Norte congresswoman and senator, respectively, in 2010.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and newly appointed Justice Andres Reyes Jr. also inhibited from the case.

No reason was provided by the high court about their inhibition although the two magistrates earlier issued a joint statement on the matter.

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.

Imee Marcos accused the respondent-House leaders of committing grave abuse of discretion and violating the resource persons' constitutional rights in a legislative inquiry.

She said that local politics was behind the House inquiry.

The petitioners 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) violative of basic human rights."

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 July 13 are the detained employees, namely, Josephine Calajate, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro, Evangeline Tabulog, Pedro Agcaoili Jr. and Eden Battulayan.

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 its share of 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 that 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.

Sereno and then CA Presiding Justice  Reyes, meanwhile, urged the House to recall the show cause order and asked them to instead avail of legal remedies in questioning the orders of the CA. —NB/KVD, GMA News