MANILA, Philippines – Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, the Majority Leader of the House, was declared persona non grata in his own province on Tuesday, June 27.
Eight members of the Provincial Board voted in favor of Resolution Number 2017-06081, which was sponsored by Provincial Board Member Vicentito Lazo and Vice Governor Angelo Marcos Barba.
The Ilocos Norte officials approved the resolution amid Fariñas' political rift with Governor Imee Marcos.
The House good government and public accountability committee is currently investigating the alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of Ilocos Norte tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles. Fariñas initiated the probe along with Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr and Pampanga 4th District Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc. (READ: Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds go to Imee Marcos' pet projects)
Ilocos Norte Provincial Board Member Da Vinci Crisostomo said that while the persona non grata status means Fariñas is an "unwelcome person," the House Majority Leader will still be allowed to enter the province.
"Well, this is in the form of a resolution, and under the parliamentary rules, it is a manifestation or expression of our feelings towards the person. So, what the Provincial Board, whose members were directly elected by the people of the province of Ilocos Norte and representing our constituents, wants to express are the sentiments of the whole province," said Crisostomo in Filipino.
Since 1998, the Fariñas and Marcos families have either been allies or rivals in Ilocos Norte after the Marcoses returned to the province when patriarch and late dictator Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in 1989.
In 2015, the Marcoses cut ties with Fariñas and dropped him from their "One Ilocos Norte" ticket.
Fariñas to sue
But Fariñas, a lawyer, argued he cannot be declared persona non grata since the status can only be imposed upon foreigners. He plans to sue the officials who approved the resolution.
"I will file cases against them for damages for the violation of my constitutional rights, as well as for a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing me undue injury through evident bad faith," Fariñas told reporters.
"I am a citizen of this country and no one, especially Sangguniang Panlalawigan members, can declare me, or any other citizen of this country, a persona non grata. Not even convicted criminals are declared as such," said Fariñas, reiterating his leadership position in the House.
He emphasized that a persona non grata status "applies only in diplomatic relations, more particularly to aliens."
Fariñas had initiated the House probe into the Ilocos Norte tobacco funds after uncovering documents indicating Marcos allowed P66.45 million of the tobacco funds to be used to buy 40 mini-cabs, 5 secondhand buses, and 70 Foton mini trucks.
Under Republic Act Number 7171, 15% of cigarette excise taxes shall be allotted for a special support fund for tobacco farmers, but the money should only be used for cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.
The probe has led to the detention of 6 provincial officials for their refusal to properly answer lawmakers' questions. (READ: 'Maawa naman kayo,' detained Ilocos Norte officials tell House)
The House committee already issued a subpoena ordering Marcos to appear in the next hearing on July 25.