IBP to House: Don't add to problems, recall order vs CA

MANILA, Philippines – Because we've had enough constitutional conflict caused by the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the detention of 6 Ilocos Norte employees should not add to it, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Saturday, June 24.

That is why the IBP has appealed to the House of Representatives to recall its show cause order against justices of the Court of Appeals (CA).

"Our country is presently embroiled in the fight against terrorism which has prompted the President to declare martial law in Mindanao. We certainly do not need to compound our problems with a constitutional crisis between the two other branches of the government," the IBP's Board of Governors said in a statement on Saturday.

They added: "(We) call upon the members of the bar in Congress to act as light bringers and advocates of sobriety to bring about an end to this looming controversy."

Show cause  

This refers to the show cause order issued by the House Committee on Good Government and Acountability asking 3 justices of the CA why they should not be cited in contempt for ordering the release of the provincial employees collectively known now as the "Ilocos 6".

The Ilocos 6 applied for a writ of habeas corpus before the CA after they were detained at the lower chamber for not answering questions during a legislative inquiry into Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds.

The probe stemmed from the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in public funds from Ilocos Norte's share of excise tax collections on cigarettes.

The CA, while resolving the petition, granted them provisional liberty but the House committee refused to heed the court order and instead issued a counter show cause order.

This prompted CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to issue a joint statement saying they were deeply concerned about the show cause order because of its implications on the separation of power and judicial independence. (READ: 'Emotional' Speaker Alvarez 'must know the limits of his power' – CA justice)

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called the 3 CA justices "idiots" and made pronouncements about abolishing the CA.

"[The controversy] placed the Judiciary and Congress at apparent loggerheads with each other and the situation has been fueled by scathing opinions and statements supporting either side and thus, creating the public perception of a constitutional crisis. This certainly need not be the case," Ithe BP said.

IBP to House: File SC petition

The IBP reminded the House committee that it was well within the power of the CA to grant the Ilocos 6 provisional liberty, because they have the authority to act on habeas corpus proceedings.

Just as well, the IBP said, it is within the authority of the House committee to detain people it holds in contempt.

The proper step to take for the House lawmakers, the IBP said, is to file a petition for certiorari before the SC questioning the CA's order. The CA, in turn, could also resort to a remedy of filing a petition before the High Court.

This was also the advice of Sereno and Andres to the House committee.

"It does not appear that the CA has infringed upon, interfered with, or denied the power or authority of the House of Representatives...There is no need at all to foment dissention and discord between the judiciary and Congress," the IBP said.

"Particularly in the present situation, it behooves us all, as Filipinos, to foster unity and solidarity rather than foment discord for the greater good of our people," the IBP added. 

The Ilocos 6's petition before the CA was anchored on their right against self-incrimination. They are represented by veteran litigator Estelito Mendoza who was solicitor general during the time of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos' daughter, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos has been warned by the House committee that she would be arrested if she doesn't attend the next hearing on July 25. (READ: Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds go to Imee Marcos' pet projectsRappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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