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Imee Marcos to cooperate in House probe on questioned tobacco funds

Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos on Sunday said she is willing to cooperate with the House of Representatives panel conducting a probe into the provincial government’s purchase of vehicles for P66.45 million, which was sourced from the province's share of tobacco excise taxes.

In a statement, Marcos said, “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...."

However, Marcos lamented that the continued detention of six provincial government employees, who are facing contempt citation for allegedly refusing to answer relevant questions from lawmakers conducting the inquiry.

The governor claimed that she had sent two letters to the House committee on good government and public accountability to request for clarifications about the summon for her to be a resource person in the probe.

“Even if those letters did not merit any response from the committee, my commitment to cooperate on constitutional grounds has not changed,” she said.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier signed a subpoena on Marcos, compelling her to attend the July 25 resumption of the congressional inquiry. 

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House panel doing the probe, said Marcos' failure to show up on the scheduled committee hearing this month will be enough ground for a contempt citation.

On the other hand, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas has repeatedly threatened the six employees that they may be held in detention until June 2019 or until the lawmakers are satisfied with their answers.

But Marcos insisted that Constitutional rights of persons invited to attend House inquiries must still be respected.

She argued that the judiciary, and not Congress, is the rightful body to prosecute the provincial employees, collectively known as Ilocos Six, who have been detained for already more than a month.

The six Ilocos del Norte employees have asked the Court of Appeals to resolve their habeas corpus case immediately and declare their continued detention as illegal and a form of torture.

Those who are being detained at the House of Representatives are Josephine Calajate, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro, Evangeline Tabulog, Pedro Agcaoili Jr. and Eden Battulayan.

In their motion, they said there was no attempt on their part to refuse to answer the questions of the lawmakers. Their supposed refusal has led to their detention over contempt citation.

In a June 1 resolution, the CA requested Congress to file its comment on the case. The following day, it issued a writ of habeas corpus and ordered House of Representatives Sgt.-At-Arms Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali to produce the detained employees. On June 9, the CA issued another resolution granting the petitioners' request for provisional release provided they post bail at P30,000 each, Gov. Marcos said.

The House of Representatives has ignored all three orders, she added. —LBG, GMA News