'Emotional' Speaker Alvarez 'must know the limits of his power' – CA justice

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was being "very emotional" when he threatened to initiate the disbarment of the appellate court justices who ordered the release of Ilocos Norte officials being detained at the House of Representatives. 

But, a Court of Appeals (CA) justice cautioned him, "He must know the limits of his power."

Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang defended her colleagues in the CA on Monday, June 19, when she was asked about it during the interview by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for a Supreme Court vacancy.

Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, a member of the CA 4th Division that issued the habeas corpus order to the House, was also interviewed by the JBC. He said he welcomed the disbarment initiative of the Speaker as an opportunity to show that the justices were just doing their job.

"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.

Six Ilocos Norte officials have been detained since May 29  at the House Legislative Building after they were held in contempt for refusing to answer questions at the hearing on the alleged misuse of tobacco funds by Governor Imee Marcos, the political rival of Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas. 

DETENTION ROOM. Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr talks to the 6 Ilocos Norte officials inside their detention room. Photo from the Marcos camp

DETENTION ROOM. Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr talks to the 6 Ilocos Norte officials inside their detention room.

Photo from the Marcos camp

The CA ordered House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali to present the 6 petitioners, but the House rejected the service of the writ thrice. A show cause order issued by the CA required Detabali to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for defying the order and twice rejecting the service of the CA ruling. 

House officials, however, refused to accept the orders. They reportedly insisted the orders were invalid as the CA had no jurisdiction over the matter. Alvarez called the CA justices "idiots" for issuing an order against the House, a co-equal branch of government. 

CA doing its duty

Justice Cruz said their issuance of the writ of habeas corpus in favor of the Ilocos Norte officials was part of their duty. It was meant "to determine really if the detention was legal." 

"We want the bodies to be presented to the court and the person who is detaining them, and determine whether it is legal. Because if it is legal, we will dismiss the petition," he said.

Cruz also said, "That was pursuant to a case, Enrile vs Salazar wherein persons subject of writ of habeas corpus, while the merits are being determined can be released on bail."

Cruz also dismissed insinuations that their order violates the principle of separation of powers: "Under the principle of checks and balances, the courts can inquire, like in a habeas corpus case, inquire whether the detained person is being detained legally because if the detention is legal, we will dismiss the petition for being unmeritorious." – Rappler.com