SC, CA ask House to review show cause vs justices on detention of 6 Ilocos Norte officials

MANILA-- Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Court of Appeals (CA) Presiding Justice Andres Reyes on Wednesday asked the House of Representative to reconsider the show cause order issued against three CA justices in connection of the issuance of an order directing the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial employees who were detained since last month for contempt.

Sereno and Reyes issued a joint statement as they appealed for the House leadership to reconsider the show cause order issued by the House committee on good governance and public accountability on Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela of the appellate court's special fourth division.

Cognizant of its implication on separation of powers and judicial independence, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals express deep concern over the show cause order issued against the CA justices, Sereno and Andres said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

The SC and CA chiefs issued the statement after members of the House committee � upon the motion of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali who heads the House justice committee � voted unanimously to order three CA justices to show cause why they should not be cited for contempt for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial officials being detained for contempt in connection to their probe on alleged misuse of PHP66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.

The committee called the appellate court an inferior court and questioned why the magistrates granted the petition for habeas corpus of the so-called Ilocos 6 and ordered their release on bail.

Sereno and Reyes also expressed hope that the House will reconsider its order saying the former can avail of legal remedies that are provided for under the Constitution, the law and the Rules of Court instead of issuing a show cause order.

Without inquiring into the merits of the issues currently pending before the Special Fourth Division and subject of the House Committee's inquiry, we note that the House of Representatives is not without any speedy legal remedy that is consistent with the separation of powers should it disagree with the action of the Court of Appeals, such as an appeal,' the statement said adding that it is our hope that the House of Representatives reconsider its order.

Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza pressed for the immediate release of the six Ilocos Norte provincial employees despite orders of the CA for their release.

Mendoza who is serving as the lead counsel of the six- Pedro Agcaoili, provincial planning and development office chair, Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer, provincial treasurers staffers Eden Battulayan, Encarnacion Gaor, Genedine Jambaro and provincial budget officer Evangeline Tambulog-said the House should comply with the appellate court's order since the writ of habeas corpus it issued is immediately executory.

We have already filed a writ of habeas corpus. That is more than enough. The writ should be immediately executory since with their continued detention, they are suffering undue emotional and psychological anguish not to mention the pitiable detention conditions, which under the anti-torture law constitutes an act of torture, Mendoza said adding that they face the possibility of protracted detention possibly until the end of the current Congress or until the lawmakers say they are satisfied with their answers.

He further explained that even if the House files a motion for reconsideration of the appellate court's order it will not suspend the effectivity of the release order.

Espinosa's co-counsel, Vicentito Lazo for his part urged House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the other congressional leaders to adhere to the rule of law.

They are under obligation to make available to every person detained all remedies that will safeguard his fundamental right to liberty, these remedies includes the right to bail. So, its not true that the writ of habeas corpus is meaningless, Lazo added.

He said the position of House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rody Farinas that the writ is meaningless has no merit since it only become useless because they are defying the court order.

The House has defied the CA's order thrice by rejecting the attempt of the sheriff to serve the order for the release of the six as they maintained that the order is invalid as the appellate court has no jurisdiction over Congress.

House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali also disobeyed the order of the CA to bring the six before the appellate court.

Cruz, during an interview by the Judicial and Bar Council on Monday, said they were just doing their duty as magistrates and that the House may bring the case to the Supreme Court.

If we falter because of some threats, then we would show our weakness as magistrates. As I have said, let justice be done though the heavens fall, Cruz said.

If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court. What we did, your honor, was our duty. We found that the writ should be issued, he added.

Farinas said there is a seeming conspiracy to hide the alleged misuse of the tobacco excise tax.

Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos earlier lamented their continued detention and the failure of Detabali to appear in court saying that the issue is being used for political agenda.

Source: Philippines News Agency