House says Imee Marcos can still work as governor while in detention

MANILA, Philippines – Imee Marcos would still be able to perform her duties as Ilocos Norte governor should the House of Representatives cite her in contempt and detain her for failure to attend a hearing on her alleged misuse of provincial tobacco funds, an official of the legislative body said.

On Monday, July 3, House committee on good government and public accountability chairperson Johnny Pimentel and Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali took the media on a tour of the possible detention room for Marcos. (READ: Red flags in Imee's Ilocos Norte and P66.45M tobacco fund use

A subpoena for her to attend the next hearing on July 25 was already issued by the House panel. 

But the governor said that while she had intended to testify during the ongoing probe into her alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of provincial tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles, her brother – former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr – advised her against it.

Marcos would be detained in the 70- to 80-square-meter extension office of Detabali on the 3rd floor of the House of Representatives' main building. The room is fully airconditioned and has a private bathroom with a water heater.

The House will provide her with a solo metal bed with mattress as well as food, but Marcos may bring in her own.  

She would also have access to her gadgets, television, and even an internet connection, which would make it possible for Marcos to still perform her duties as governor should she be detained. 

"Yes, she can [do her work as governor]. Probably she can because may Wi-Fi naman, may Internet naman (there will be Wi-Fi and internet anyway). She's also allowed to bring in her cellphone. So I don't see any reason [why she can't do her work]," said Pimentel.

"Actually, our rules are very liberal because in Muntinlupa, you are not allowed any Wi-Fi, you're not allowed to bring a cellphone, but here, she'll be allowed to," said the lawmaker in Filipino, referring to the New Bilibid Prison.

Pimentel assured the public Marcos would be safe in the House because her possible detention would have 3 layers of security.

She may receive any guests as well from 8 am to 5 pm.

The House had initiated the investigation after Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, the Majority Leader, uncovered documents showing Marcos had authorized the release of P66.45 million to buy the following:

Under Republic Act Number 7171, 15% of cigarette excise taxes shall be allotted for a special support fund for tobacco farmers, who may use the money for cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects. (READ: FAST FACTS: Tobacco funds in the Philippines

Despite the red flags in the transactions, Marcos maintains the purchases are aboveboard because the local farmers had requested for the motor vehicles. (READ: Ilocos Norte's tobacco funds go to Imee Marcos' pet projects)

Detention room for CA justices too 

The House has also prepared the possible detention room of 3 justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) Special 4th Division.  

They would be detained at the former office of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Incorporated at the 2nd floor of the House, which has 3 rooms and its own private bathroom.  

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 6 local executives, all signatories to the documents Fariñas have, all said they cannot remember the transactions for the motor vehicle purchases. They also said they cannot comment on lawmakers' questions until the original copies of the documents – now lost after the House initiated its probe – were presented to them. 

The so-called "Ilocos 6" have since secured a favorable order from Cruz, Sorongon, and Valenzuela, but the House has refused to free them. (READ: Alvarez calls CA justices 'idiots' over detention case of Ilocos Norte officials)

The House leadership believes the CA has no jurisdiction over the constitutionally mandated powers of Congress to cite in contempt uncooperative resource persons in hearings.

The 3 justices of the CA Special 4th Division already issued a show cause order against Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Detabali, directing them to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for ignoring the court order.

In turn, the House 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. (READ: Sereno, CA to House: Observe separation of powers)

– 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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