MANILA — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday said the House of Representatives is looking into the possibility of filing disbarment charges against the justices of the Special Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) for ignorance of the law.
Alvarez was referring to the three CA justices, Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela, who handled the cases of six Ilocos Norte government officials detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
In a radio interview, Alvarez said the CA order granting the habeas corpus petition of the “Ilocos Six” is a clear contradiction of previous Supreme Court decisions affirming the contempt powers of Congress.
Alvarez maintained that the House has the authority to keep the Ilocos Norte officials in detention, stressing that the lower chamber exercises its oversight functions to protect public interest.
“Hindi nila tinitingnan na recently nagdesisyon na naman ang Supreme Court, reaffirming yung karapatan ng Kongreso na mag-cite for contempt itong mga testigo na hindi nagsasabi ng totoo, hindi ba?,” Alvarez said.
“Magpa-file kami ng disbarment cases for ignorance of the law, itong justices na ito,” he added.
The Speaker also threatened to dissolve the appellate court, which was created through Congress. He further noted that the CA has no authority to compel the House to release the detainees since it is not even a co-equal branch of the legislature.
“Kahit hanapin mo sa provision ng Constitution kung mayroon bang Court of Appeals justices diyan, wala. They are merely a creation of Congress, yung Court of Appeals. Kaya iyan nag-eexist dahil nga na-create iyan ng Congress — anytime puwede namin silang i-dissolve,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said that the six officials hold the key to their freedom if they would only cooperate with the congressional inquiry and provide credible answers.
This is a simple thing, na yung liberty o kung kalayaan ng mga naka-detain, yung susi hawak-hawak nila, sila lang yung may hawak ng susi. Hindi na kailangan mag-file pa ng kung anu-ano, habeas corpus o bail, hindi ba? Sagutin lang nila nang maayos yung tanong doon sa House of Representatives, yung tanong doon sa committee hearing,” Alvarez stressed.
The six Ilocos Norte officials were detained on May 29 after they were held in contempt for refusing to answer questions during a congressional inquiry into the alleged irregular procurement of PHP66.45 million worth of vehicles by the provincial government.
House Resolution No. 882, authored by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, calls for a congressional inquiry into allegations of “highly irregular” usage of the provincial government’s PHP66.45 million tobacco funds to purchase motor vehicles such as mini cabs, mini trucks, and buses.
However, based on Republic Act 7171, cigarette excise taxes should be allotted for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects as a special support for tobacco farmers.