House releases detained “Ilocos Six” officials

The House committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Rep. Johnny Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur) on Tuesday ordered the release of the six officials of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) who were detained at the Batasan Pambansa after they were cited for contempt and for giving evasive answers during the inquiry on the purchase of motor vehicles worth P66.5 million by the PGIN using the province's excise tax collection.

Another highlight of the hearing was the appearance of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos who earlier failed to attend twice the committee's hearing.

The committee released the six PGIN officials after they finally identified and confirmed their signatures on the checks and documents pertinent to the purchases.

The committee's investigation was based on House Resolution 882, authored by Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas (1st District, Ilocos Norte), calling for an inquiry into the use by the PGIN of its shares from the excise taxes on locally manufactured Virginia-type cigarettes or the Special Support Fund under Republic Act 7171 for a purpose other than those provided for by the said law.

Ordered release were PGIN provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate; Encarnacion Gaor and Genedine Jambaro of the Office of the Provincial Treasurer; budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman and Provincial Planning and Development Office head Engr. Padro Agcaoili; and Eden Batulayan, OIC of the Provincial Accounting Office.

FariAas said had the six PGIN officials been cooperative in the previous meetings, they would have not been cited for contempt and detained for 55 days.

Kung nagsalita kayo nun pa sana di na kayo tumagal dito. Puro kayo hindi ninyo alam, ngayon, alam ninyo pala. Talagang perjury na nga yung ginawa nyo. Nagsinungaling kayo nang nagsinungaling na nagkukunyari na hindi ninyo alam. Now pakisagot na lang yung ibang mga tanong at imo-move din namin na i-lift yung contempt ninyo para makauwi na kayo, said FariAas.

FariAas also apologized to the six officials for their detention, but said the lawmakers have to protect the integrity of Congress.

Wala na hong makukuhang sagot kung lahat ng pupunta ditto mag-mamakaawa kami, makikiusap kami para sabihin ang totoo. Obligasyon ng bawat mamamayan na kapag tinanong ng Kongreso sa isang inquiry patungkol sa ginagawa naming batas ay sumagot po kayo, he explained.

FariAas said they were doing the investigation because they saw irregularities in the purchase of the vehicles.

Also during the hearing, Marcos withdrew her statement that P100 million was offered to the members of the committee to ensure her detention.

Marcos withdrew her statement after FariAas threatened to cite her in contempt for her refusal to name the source of the alleged information.

You have attacked an institution through an unnamed source, di po pwede yun, FariAas said.

For that I apologize and withdraw the statement. It was my mere suspicion and given that the source is uncertain I withdraw the accusation to the integrity and the honor of the House that a P100 million circulated. Hindi po totoo yun at ako po ay nagpapaumanhin kung nasaktan ang ibang miembro ng ating Kongreso, Marcos said.

In her opening statement, Marcos appealed for the release of the Ilocos Six.

Narito po ako ngayon dahil sa subpoena na ipinadala sa akin at umaapela ako sa komite na ito na mapalaya na ang Ilocos Six na 55 araw na nakakulong sa Kongreso. Handa po ako na sumagot sa mga katanungan ng komite para makatulong sa pag-amyenda at pagbago ng batas na isang layunin ng investigation in aid of legislation na pinursige ko sa higit isanng dosenang taon na bilang miembro din ng HREP, said Marcos.

With Marcos were her mother, Rep. Imelda Marcos (2nd District, Ilocos Norte) and legal counsel, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Source: House of Representatives

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