Arresting Imee Marcos would be harder than Ronnie Dayan – lawmaker

MANILA, Philippines – House committee on good government and public accountability chairperson Johnny Pimentel is not too confident that arresting Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos would be an easy feat, in case she does skip the hearing on the alleged misuse of her province's tobacco funds.

Pimentel said it would be harder compared to arresting Ronnie Dayan, the former boyfriend and driver of detained Senator Leila de Lima, because Marcos is in office and belongs to a powerful clan. Dayan was arrested in November 2016 after failing to attend a House hearing.

"If we will issue a warrant of arrest, we will be arresting a governor, incumbent governor at Marcos pa ang apelyido. Tingin ko mahirap-hirap 'yan… si Ronnie Dayan madali lang natin arestuhin dahil ordinary citizen. Pero this person is very powerful," the Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative said in an interview on dzBB.

(I think it is hard to arrest an incumbent governor – with a Marcos surname at that – if we will issue a warrant of arrest. Ronnie Dayan's case was easier because he is an ordinary citizen. But this person is very powerful.)

The House panel ordered Marcos to attend a hearing on July 25 regarding the use of provincial tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles worth a total of P66.45 million. (READ: Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds go to Imee Marcos' pet projects)

But the eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos previously said she would not appear before the lawmakers, as advised by her brother, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The House panel then said it was preparing the detention room for the Ilocos Norte governor.

"Tinatanong lang naman natin 'yung transactions na highly anomalous. Kung totoong inosente siya ay bakit hindi siya sumipot? Bakit hindi niya sagutin 'yung mga tanong?" Pimentel said.

(We are just asking about the highly anomalous transactions. If she is innocent, why won't she attend the hearing? Why won't she answer the questions?)

Six Ilocos Norte officials remain detained at the House after dodging questions during the previous congressional hearings. The Court of Appeals earlier ordered their release but the House leadership has ignored the CA ruling. (READ: 'Maawa naman kayo,' detained Ilocos Norte officials tell House)

It was House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative, who brought the local issue to the national spotlight last month.

The investigation has been seen as a clash between two powerful clans of Ilocos Norte. (READ: Red flags in Imee's Ilocos Norte and P66.45M tobacco fund use)

Fariñas was recently declared persona non grata in his own province by the provincial legislative body. He has vowed to sue those behind the declaration, arguing that the status can only be imposed on foreigners. –