House warns Imee Marcos: Attend probe or face arrest

MANILA, Philippines – House committee on good government and public accountability chairperson Representative Johnny Pimentel warned Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos that she would be cited in contempt if she fails to attend the hearing on the alleged misuse of the provincial tobacco funds, set for July 25.

"We do not want to embarrass the governor. However, if she forces our hand, of course we are ready to do a Ronnie Dayan on her, in accordance with House rules," said the Surigao del Sur 2nd District representative in a statement on Sunday, June 18.

He was referring to Ronnie Dayan, the former boyfriend and driver of detained Senator Leila de Lima, who was arrested in November 2016 for not showing up at an October 2016 House hearing.

"What we issued was a subpoena and a show cause order why she (Imee Marcos) should not be cited in contempt if she fails to attend the July 25 hearing," Pimentel added.  

Marcos is facing controversy over the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in public funds from Ilocos Norte's share of excise tax collections on cigarettes. The money was allegedly used to buy motor vehicles without public bidding. (READ: 'Mastermind' muzzling Ilocos Norte execs in House probe, says Fariñas

There are 6 Ilocos Norte officials currently detained at the House of Representatives after they were cited in contempt for giving dismissive answers in a hearing. These are: 

The 6 officials have since secured an order for their provisional release from the Court of Appeals (CA) Special 4th Division. But the House has defied the order, questioning the appellate court's authority over congressional contempt powers. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also called the CA justices "idiots." 

Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, brother of Governor Marcos, visited the detained officials last Thursday, June 15. He said they are pursuing all legal remedies to free the officials. 

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, a former Ilocos Norte governor himself, said they will continue to detain the so-called "Ilocos Norte 6" until they stop "giving evasive answers, tantamount to refusal to answer."

An emergency hearing has been set for Tuesday, June 20, where the officials will be given an opportunity to again answer the House queries. 

"We will set them free right away, once they decide to tell the truth about the anomaly. We are really hoping they will change their minds by Tuesday, both for their sake and for the sake of public interest," said Pimentel.

The 6 Ilocos Norte officials find themselves in the middle of the political feud between Fariñas and the Marcoses.

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. – Rappler.com