On eve of House tobacco probe, Imee Marcos appears in Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos was spotted at the Batasang Pambansa ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24.

Marcos skipped the red carpet, telling reporters that her presence at the SONA does not mean she would appear before the House committee on good government and public accountability on Tuesday, July 25, when it resumes its probe into her alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of tobacco funds. (READ: Red flags in Imee's Ilocos Norte and P66.45M tobacco fund use)

The panel had issued a subpoena for her to appear during the probe on Tuesday. If she fails to attend, lawmakers may cite her in contempt and detain her until she testifies. (READ: House says Imee Marcos can still work as governor while in detention)

“No, it’s not," Marcos said when asked if her presence meant her appearance as well on Tuesday. "It’s a sign that I am here to support our President. He’s facing so many problems at kinakailangan ng bawat Pilipino ay magbigay ng suporta at mag-volunteer ng tulong (and every Filipino needs to show their support and volunteer to help),” said Marcos, who was wearing a purple Muslim-inspired barong and slacks.  

Has she already decided if she is going to attend the House probe?

“I have no idea. Pine-pray over ko pa (I’m still praying over it),” she said.

The investigation was initiated by Marcos’ political rival Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas as well as two of his deputies. 

Marcos had said she is willing to attend the probe, but her own brother former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and other llocos Norte officials have warned her against it. She previously urged the House to end the “inquisition” against her.  

Marcos also called as “disgraceful” the House’s continued detention of 6 Ilocos Norte officials. 

The good government and public accountability committee detained the so-called “Ilocos 6” since May 23 for giving “dismissive” answers during the tobacco funds probe. (READ: ‘Maawa naman kayo,’ detained Ilocos Norte officials tell House

“I think it’s disgraceful that they continue to be here. Fifty-five, 54 days na sila, ‘yung aking mga lola eh talagang hanggang ngayon ay ‘di pa rin pinagbibigyan ang kanilang kalayaan (Our elderly have been here for 55, 54 days but they still haven't been granted freedom),” said Marcos.

The Ilocos Norte officials already secured a ruling from the Court of Appeals ordering their provisional release, but the House has refused to recognize the court order.  

Marcos then filed an omnibus petition before the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take over the detention case and compel the House to release the detainees. – 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.