House summons Imee Marcos to tobacco fund hearing

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has issued a subpoena for Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos to appear at the July 25 hearing on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of provincial tobacco funds. 

The subpoena was signed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House committee on good government and public accountability committee chairperson Johnny Pimentel, and House Secretary-General Cesar Pareja on Tuesday, June 27. A copy of the document was given to reporters on Wednesday, June 28. 

Marcos is allowed to bring a lawyer to assist her in answering the lawmakers’ questions. Should she refuse to be assisted by a legal counsel, the governor must issue a waiver.

She must also give the House a copy of a written statement she plans to read as testimony two days ahead of the hearing. Marcos may also request for a conference with any member of the House good government and public accountability panel. 

If Marcos fails to show up on July 25, the committee will cite her in contempt and move to detain her in the House. Her detention room is already being prepared.

The House is investigating the province’s tobacco funds after Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, the House Majority Leader and former Ilocos Norte governor, uncovered various documents indicating the money was used to purchase 40 mini-cabs, 5 secondhand buses, and 70 Foton mini trucks. 

Under Republic Act Number 7171, 15% of tobacco excise taxes shall be allotted for a special support fund for tobacco farmers in the identified provinces, mostly in the Ilocos region. The money, however, should only be used for cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects. 

Marcos has ignored previous invitations to appear in the hearings, only sending a letter to the committee maintaining the purchases were aboveboard and benefitted farmers. 

Rappler, however, discovered documents showing Ilocos Norte’s tobacco funds go to Marcos’ pet projects

The House is preparing her detention room after she said her brother, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, had advised her against testifying before lawmakers. 

Six Ilocos Norte officials have been detained for giving “dismissive” answers during the hearings. The Court of Appeals had ordered their provisional release, but this was ignored by the House leadership.

This prompted the Ilocos Norte Provincial Board to declare Fariñas persona non grata. Fariñas, in turn, plans to sue the officials for voting in favor of the resolution against him. – 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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