MANILA, Philippines – Will she show up or continue to snub the House of Representatives?
If Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos remains a no-show at the congressional inquiry into her province’s allegedly irregular purchase of over P66 million worth of vehicles, the House would be ready to arrest and detain her at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City and join six provincial employees, who have been hold up in Congress since May 29.
The detention room sits on the third level of the main building of the House of Representatives. Around 80 square meters in size, it has a receiving area, a bathroom, a small dining area and a private room with a makeshift bed.
On Monday, July 3, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, toured the media in facility for the governor, the eldest child of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, who is now Ilocos Norte representative.
Last Sunday, July 2, Imee said she was willing to cooperate with the House panel on its on-going investigation into the provicial government’s alleged diversion of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.
“I have expressed my willingness to cooperate…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 and that the rights of persons appearing therein are protected,” Imee said in a statement released through her lawyer Estelito Mendoza.
According to Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, the vehicles were purchased through cash advances from the province’s share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171 or the Act to Promote the Development of the Farmer in the Virgina Tobacco-Producing Provinces.
The lawmaker claimed the purchase of the vehicles had violated provisions of R.A. 7171 because the law mandates Virginia tobacco-producing provinces to use 15 percent of their share of excise taxes from locally produced cigarettes for projects that will help advance tobacco farmers’ self reliance through the establishment of cooperatives and livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.
Also, Fariñas claimed there was no public bidding in the purchase of the vehicles in violation of Republic Act 9814 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The six provincial employees — Pedro Agacaoili, chairman of the office’s Bids and Awards Committee and head of the provincial and planning development office; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Edna Battulayan, accountant; provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; and two other employees, Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor — were detained after they repeatedly told the House panel chaired by Pimentel that they could not recall receiving millions in cash advances or authorizing the release of funds for the purchase of various vehicles.
Fariñas grilled the employees on the allegedly anomalous purchase of minicabs, buses, and trucks in 2011 and 2012 using the share of the province from tobacco funds.
The lawmaker chastised the employees for their allegedly “dismissive” answers and also warned that cases against them would pile up if they continue trying to get off the hook.