House panel issues show cause order vs 3 CA justices

MANILA-- A House of Representatives panel on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion to issue a show cause order against the three Court of Appeals (CA) justices who handled the case of six Ilocos Norte government officials detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.

With 30 affirmative votes, the House committee on good government and public accountability approved Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali's motion directing the three CA justices -- Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon, and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela -- to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for gross ignorance of the law.

This after the CA promulgated a resolution requiring House Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali to show cause in writing why he should not be cited in contempt for refusing to present before the appellate court the six provincial officials in connection with their writ of habeas corpus petition.

Umali said the House of Representatives must also issue a show cause order against the CA justices to equalize the situation.

"This really is very disturbing because when an officer of Congress is now being required to show cause, this will equally warrant the issuance of the show cause order of these justices who unwarrantedly issued a resolution," Umali said.

Umali said the CA has no jurisdiction to compel the House to release the detainees since it is not even a co-equal branch of the legislature, thus violating the separate and independent power of Congress.

"I cannot understand why the CA, which is an inferior court, could have issued this writ and even an order granting bail to these witnesses," Umali said.

Citing Section 7, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, Umali also said the petitioners' case is outright dismissible for failing to implead the indispensible party.

"It is my humble opinion that the case that was filed in behalf of these witnesses is dismissible outright," he said.

The Ilocos Norte provincial employees detained at the Batasan Complex are Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer; Pedro Agcaoili, provincial planning and development office chair; and Provincial Treasurer's Office employees Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaor, and Eden Battulayan.

For his part, Cruz stood pat on the CA's decision ordering the release of six employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government despite threats from House Speaker Alvarez Pantaleon Alvarez to file disbarment case against them and to abolish the appellate court.

Cruz, one of the three members of the CA Fourth Division handling the case, insisted that the their issuance of the writ of habeas corpus in favor of the six Ilocos Norte officials was part of its duty.

"We found that the writ should be issued. Again, if we falter because of some threats that will show our weakness as a magistrate. And as I have said a while ago, let justice be done though the heavens fall. If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court," Cruz said.

When asked about the possible filing of disbarment cases against them by the House leadership, Cruz said he would welcome such action as an opportunity to ferret out the truth.

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 by the provincial government

House Resolution No. 882, authored by Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas, calls for a congressional inquiry into allegations of highly irregular usage of the provincial government's PHP66.45 million tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles such as mini cabs, mini trucks, and buses.

However, based on Republic Act 7171, cigarette excise taxes should be allotted for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects as a special support for tobacco farmers.

Source: Philippines News Agency