House panel rejects Imelda Marcos’ appeal for release of ‘Ilocos 6’

MANILA-- The House committee on good government and public accountability on Tuesday rejected the request of Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos to release the six provincial government officials detained for contempt citation as they remain elusive to the questions posed by the panel.

Marcos made the appeal during the congressional hearing on the alleged anomalous purchase of vehicles using the PHP66.4 million tobacco funds of the Ilocos Norte provincial government.

In a letter addressed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and committee chair Johnny Pimentel, Marcos pleaded for the temporary liberty of the Ilocos 6 under humanitarian grounds.

She was referring to the provincial government officials currently detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City, namely: provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate; provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; provincial planning and development office chair Pedro Agcaoili; and Provincial Treasurer's Office employees Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaor, and Eden Battulayan.

"The six detained public employees, the Ilocos 6, are aged 47 to 63 most, if not all of them, have medical conditions that may worsen due to the confinement for a prolonged period of time such as their detention," Marcos said.

"One of the six has cardio myopathy, others have diabetes, one has lumbar disability, and another has suffered mild stroke," she added.

Marcos also vouched for the six employees that they shall appear and respect the invitation of subpoena issued to them by this honorable committee.

"I am soon going to be 88 years old, and in the long eventful years of my existence I have found that it is not power but the milk of human kindness that make us godly, not influence or pride. For true greatness is wrought by love --love for the small and helpless, and like me and the Ilocos employees, the elderly and the weak," she said.

However, Pimentel said the committee could not grant Marcos' request unless the Ilocos 6 answer the questions regarding the anomalous purchase of vehicles be answered correctly and truthfully.

"If they will answer the questions we will set them free right here and now," Pimentel said.

The Ilocos 6 appeared before the House panel in the same hearing, but still refused to take questions without the presence of their preferred legal counsel.

The six Ilocos Norte officials were detained on May 29 after they were held in contempt for refusing to answer questions during a congressional inquiry into the alleged irregular procurement of PHP66.45 million worth of vehicles using the provincial government's tobacco excise tax funds.

The mode used in the purchase of vehicles was through cash advances, using the province's share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171.

Under RA 7171, the 15 percent share of Virginia tobacco producing provinces shall be allotted for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects as a special support for tobacco farmers.

The purchased vehicles of the provincial government consisted of 40 units of minicabs, five units of buses, and 70 units of Foton Mini Trucks, totaling PHP66.4 million.

The first check was issued on December 1, 2011 in the amount of PHP18.6 million. Then on May 25, 2012, another check was issued amounting to PHP15.3 million which was followed by another check issued on September 12, 2012 in the amount of PHP32.5 million.

Source: Philippines News Agency