BAGUIO CITY – According to Antonino Pugyao, Secretary General of Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon ti Ilocos Norte-Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (Alliance of Peasants in Ilocos Norte or AMIN-Stop Exploitation), the recent move of the Provincial Board of Ilocos Norte to declare its First District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas persona non grata tends to obscure the crux of the underlying issue: The allegedly inappropriate use of the tobacco excise tax funds.
On June 27, the eight members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte passed a resolution declaring Fariñas “persona non grata”. This came just weeks after the congressman initiated a legislative inquiry into the alleged misuse of P66.5 million in tobacco tax revenue in the province.
Pugyao said that, instead of fanning animosity and the narrative as a mere political rift, members of the provincial body, as responsible Ilocanos and public officials, should have encouraged provincial staff members under Governor Imee Marcos who had been summoned to the inquiry and dubbed the Ilocos 6, to be faithful to their oath as public servants and unravel the truth regarding the anomalous transaction.
The Ilocos 6 refers to the six officials – Provincial Budget Officer Evangeline Tabulog, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor, Provincial Accountant Eden Battulayan, Provincial Treasurer Josephine Calajate and Provincial Planning and Development Officer Pedro Agcaoili – who were evasive in responding to the queries of Fariñas on the matter of the funds misuse.
Pugyao said it is clear that the provincial government of Ilocos Norte violated the implementing rules and regulations of RA 7171 when it purchased vehicles using funds from the tobacco excise tax.
He slammed Ilocos Norte officials who, instead of rectifying the wrongdoing, are prioritizing the demand for the release from detention of those “complicit in the inappropriate, illegal and anomalous use of the excise taxes” and have also resorted to the persona non grata tact to get back at Fariñas.
“This would also render justice to the tobacco farmers of Ilocos Norte who have been responsible for bringing in millions of pesos in excise tax revenue to the province,” Pugyao said.