House Committee on Good Government Chair Johnny Pimentel reiterates his warning to Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos that she faces detention at the Lower House if she skips the next hearing on the alleged misuse of provincial cigarette excise taxes.
In a statement after Marcos stated publilcly last week that she is skipping the hearing upon the advise of her brother bongbong and mother , congressman imelda marcos, Pimentel said,“
“We had the chamber prepared right after Governor Marcos publicly
declared that she will dodge our July 25 hearing, despite our subpoena
and show cause order compelling her to explain satisfactorily why she
should not be held in contempt for her brazen defiance,”.
“She’ll be okay in detention, though she might miss certain luxuries, considering the high life she’s accustomed to,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel’s committee has been probing the provincial government’s alleged misappropriation of P66.45 million in public funds representing Ilocos Norte’s share of excise tax collections from locally manufactured Virginia type cigarettes.
Six provincial executives have been detained at the House since May 29 “for their contemptuous act of giving evasive answers, tantamount to refusal to answer” questions about the money meant for the benefit of tobacco farmers, but supposedly misused as cash advances for the purchase of motor vehicles sans the benefit of competitive public
After repeatedly snubbing the panel’s prior invitations for her to testify on the matter, Marcos was finally subpoenaed to the fourth hearing on July 25.
However, in a press briefing on June 23, the governor said that upon the
recommendation of her younger brother, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong”
Marcos Jr., she would stay away from the July 25 hearing.
“I want to explain myself in Congress but others said I should not. Bongbong told me I could also be detained,” she said.
On Marcos’s fears that she might be detained if she showed up at the hearing, Pimentel had this to say: “Well, if she does not show up, her arrest and detention is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow.”
Pimentel said his panel may issue the warrant for the governor’s arrest “the day of the hearing, as soon as we’ve ascertained she’s not around to bear witness.”
He added: “The governor has already tried to explain in media interviews where the money went, how it was spent, and so on. Why can’t she just dutifully show up at our hearing, hand in the documents that her staff couldn’t produce, recount her remarks under oath, and submit herself to a proper cross-examination by the committee?”
The investigation was prompted by a resolution filed by Marcos’ provincial political rival, House Majority Leader, Rodolfo Farinas, who represent’s province’s first district.
The Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol shot back with this statement and turned the tables on Farinas.
Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member and Lawyer Da Vinci M. Crisostomo reminds Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” C. Fariñas of his case with docket no. OMB-97-2150, “Leonardo Velasco versus Rodolfo C. Fariñas,” at the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).
Fariñas, then governor of Ilocos Norte, had been charged in 2002 with “Illegal Use of Public Funds” in connection with the purchase of a brand new 1995 Jeep Cherokee Laredo using a cash advance sourced from Republic Act (RA) 7171, or the Tobacco Excise Tax.
The said Cherokee purchase was mentioned by one of the “Ilocos Six” employees of the Provincial Government during the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability’s fourth and emergency hearing last June 20 for House Resolution No. 882 investigating Ilocos Norte’s “alleged misuse” of tobacco funds.
“Mayroon ding special cash advance, long, long time ago, even yung purchase ngvehicle kahit noon pa. Kahit noong previous administrations,” said Eden Battulayan, officer in charge of the Provincial Accounting Office.
“Yung Cherokee, Sir,” she had answered when Fariñas probed her.
Crisostomo confirmed, “Kinapudnona, adda met cash advance ngamin ni Apo Fariñas idi iso ti gobernador a naggapo iti pondo iti 7171.” (Sa katunayan, mayroon ding cash advance kasi si Apo Fariñas noong siya ay gobernador na galing sa pondo ng 7171.)
Commission on Audit (COA) Finding 8 under OMB-97-2150 states regarding the Cherokee purchase, “There was no approved contract or purchased order perfected but instead there were communications between the contracting parties through fax and pro-forma invoices.
“Further, it was noted that there was no approval from the Department of Budget and Management and the Office of the President for the purchase of the car in violation of NBC No. 446 series of 1995.”
Crisostomo also shared that in addition to the Jeep Cherokee, the fund had also been used to purchase a Ford Crown Victoria.
He pointed out that the cash advances in question now, “iti administrasion ni Apo Gobernador Imee, para iti agtaltalon. Ngem dagiti in-cash advance-da idi panawen ni Fariñas, ingatangda ti… maysa a luxury vehicle [ken] maysa a luxury sports utility vehicle met lang, para iti personal nga use, so awan ti pagsayaatan iti agtaltalon.”
(Sa administrasyon ni Apo Gobernador Imee, para sa magsasaka. Pero yung mga cinash advance noong panahon ni Fariñas, pinambili ng… isang luxury vehicle [at] isang luxury sports utility vehicle din, para sa personal na use, kaya walang napakinabangan ang mga magsasaka.)
With the case at the Ombudsman, it was employees of the Provincial Government, including two of the “Ilocos Six,” who testified and defended then-Governor Fariñas.
“Naawatna diay summons idi Congressman isunan. Madina pulos sinungsungbatan…Binaonna dagiti empleyadotayo ditoy probinsia.” (Natanggap niya yung summons noong Congressman na siya. Hindi niya sinagot… Inutos yung mga empleyado natin dito sa probinsiya.)
Crisostomo further emphasized, “Isuda’t nangisalakan kenkuana ngem itattan inbaludna man idan.” (Sila ang nagligtas sa kanya pero ngayon kinulong niya na naman sila.)
He was referring to the congressman’s previous illegal detention charges and subsequent jailing, also during his term as governor, which locals know as “Voltez V” as he would lock employees inside a large room or vault. His late wife Maria Theresa Carlson had also accused him then of torturing her.
Meanwhile, the same OMB memorandum detailing both the Cherokee and Crown Victoria purchases had charged Fariñas with seven more cases of Illegal Use of Public Funds as well as violation of RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.—