MANILA — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said the Court of Appeals (CA) Special Fourth Division has overstepped its bounds and encroached the legislative powers of the House of Representatives by ordering the release of the six Ilocos Norte government officials in House detention.
Alvarez made the statement in response to the appeal of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes to reconsider the show cause order issued by the House committee on good government and public accountability against the three CA justices — Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.
“The CA order impinges on the core of the legislative power that the Constitution has vested upon the House of Representatives of which we are duty-bound to protect,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the CA Special Fourth Division has precipitated the standoff between the legislature and judiciary “when it committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to ignorance of the law in issuing the controversial order.”
“It has not only violated the constitutional power of the HOR, but has overturned jurisprudence long established by the Supreme Court since 1950,” he said.
The Speaker also backed the action of the House committee to issue a show cause order against the three CA justices, noting that it was “necessary” because the justices “violated the existing law and established jurisprudence”.
“Such is a consequence of the court’s order that overstepped its authority and transgressed the committee’s contempt powers, which is a necessary extension of its legislative power affirmed by no less than the Supreme Court in numerous cases,” he explained.
Alvarez also urged Sereno and Reyes to discipline the appellate court justices to rectify the “uneasy situation” created by their “recklessness”.
“While I appreciate the view of Chief Justice Sereno and Presiding Justice Reyes, it may also be best if they can discipline the said members of the Appeals Court for grave abuse of discretion and abuse of authority,” Alvarez said.
On Wednesday, Sereno and Reyes issued a joint statement as they appealed for the House leadership to reconsider the show cause order issued by the House committee against the three CA justices.
“Cognizant of its implication on separation of powers and judicial independence, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals express deep concern over the show cause order issued against the CA justices,” they said in a joint statement.
Sereno and Reyes also expressed hope that the House will reconsider its order saying the former can avail of legal remedies that are provided for under the Constitution, the law and the Rules of Court instead of issuing a show cause order.
The House has defied the CA’s order thrice by rejecting the attempt of the sheriff to serve the order for the release of the six as they maintained that the order is invalid as the appellate court has no jurisdiction over Congress.
House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali also disobeyed the order of the CA to bring the six before the appellate court.
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.
The six Ilocos Norte officials currently detained at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City are provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate; provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; provincial planning and development office chair Pedro Agcaoili; and Provincial Treasurer’s Office employees Genedine Jambaro, Encarnacion Gaor, and Eden Battulayan.
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.