House defers show cause order vs 3 CA justices in Ilocos detention case

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives put on hold the show cause order it issued against 3 justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) Special 4th Division who ordered the provisional release of the 6 detained Ilocos Norte officials.

House committee on good government and public accountability chairperson Johnny Pimentel said this is because Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali had filed a petition for the justices to inhibit from the detention case.  

“If you remember, I already signed a show cause order to the 3 justices why they should not be cited in contempt. But we’re holding it abeyance considering that on June 29, General Detabali filed for a motion for inhibition sa justices,” said Pimentel in Filipino on Tuesday, July 4. 

So we will just await muna ‘yong motion natin if the justices will inhibit. Kasi ‘pag nag-inhibit naman po ‘yong justices – ‘di naman po moot and academic – pero there’s no need to issue the show cause order kasi wala na nga sila doon,” he added.  

(So will just await the decision on the motion if the justices will inbihibt. Because if the justices would be inhibiting – not that the show cause order would be moot and academic – but there wouldn’t be a need for a show cause order because they won’t be there anymore.) 

CA Special 4th Division Presiding Justice Stephen Cruz, concurred to by Associate Justices Erwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela, ordered the provisional release of the 6 Ilocos Norte officials detained at the House since May 29. 

The local executives gave “dismissive” answers during a House probe into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of Ilocos Norte tobaco funds. (READ: Red flags in Imee's Ilocos Norte and P66.45M tobacco fund use

The detained officials, through the help of their legal counsel and ex-solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, managed to secure a favorable ruling from the CA for their release, provided they each post bail worth P30,000.

The House leadership, however, refuses to recognize the order. Lawmakers argued the CA has no jurisdiction over the constitutionally mandated power of Congress to cite in contempt uncooperative resource persons during hearings. 

Because of their defiance, Cruz, Sorongon, and Valenzuela issued a show cause order against Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Detabali to explain why the court should not cite them in contempt for ignoring its ruling.  

In turn, the House's good government and public accountability panel issued a show cause order against the CA justices, on why the committee should not cite them in contempt for issuing the order in favor of the Ilocos Norte officials. 

The committee has already prepared the possible detention room for Cruz, Sorongon, and Valenzuela.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes previously urged the House to reconsider its show cause order against the justices. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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