A ranking leader in the House of Representatives on Monday accused the camp of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos of forum shopping by elevating the tiff between her and the lower chamber to the Supreme Court.
In a press conference, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali tagged as a clear case of forum shopping Marcos’s omnibus petition urging the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction on the habeas corpus case pending before the Court of Appeals (CA) for the release of the six Ilocos Norte provincial government officials.
Marcos sought the Supreme Court’s intervention as the lower House continue to detain the six provincial government officials – who came to be known as the Ilocos Six – despite a writ of habeas corpus granted by the CA.
“This is unprecedented. This is forum shopping at the very least,” Umali said.
The issue has put the House and the CA on a collision course, especially because the House threatened to detain the appellate justices too. On the other hand, the CA refused to recognize the subpoena issued against three of its justices. The subpoena was later put on hold by the House.
Umali bristled at Marcos’s allegation that the House committed grave abuse of discretion. He denied this, pointing out that the issue was a political question that the Supreme Court would not be allowed to tackle.
Umali said the omnibus petition before the Supreme Court should be dismissed – not only because of forum shopping but also the high court is barred from tackling questions of a political nature.
He added that the House had the discretion to take on political questions, especially because its members were elected by the sovereign people.
“How can there be grave abuse of discretion? Discretionary power is absolutely given by no less than the Constitution to the sovereign people and those who represent the people. That is Congress,” Umali said.
Umali decried Marcos’s legal moves, saying they would only serve to “prostitute the Constitution and the judicial system.”
He lamented too that meda reports highlighting the clash between the CA and the House as they painted a picture of a constitutional crisis.
“We want this resolved in best possible way without courting a constitutional crisis,” Umali said.
“He who comes to court must come with clean hands,” he added. “You can’t seek judicial relief if your hands are unclean. And we’re talking of corruption, about malfeasance of government,” Umali said.
The House is conducting an investigation into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million Ilocos Norte provincial government tobacco funds for minicabs, buses, and minitrucks.
The Ilocos Six refused to answer questions during the probe, prompting their detention for contempt. Marcos has snubbed the hearing, prompting the House to threaten her with detention, as well.
It was llocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, the majority leader, who called for a House probe on the tobacco funds anomaly, in what is perceived to be a political show of force setting the stage for the 2019 elections in Ilocos Norte, where the Fariñas and Marcos clans are asserting dominance.
In calling for the probe, Fariñas alleged that about P66.45 million tobacco funds were used to purchase minicabs, buses and minitrucks for the different Ilocos Norte municipalities, even though the law – Republic Act 7171 – that imposed the tax on Virginia cigarettes states that the excise tax should be used for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects benefitting the tobacco farmers. –With a report from Airei Kim Guanga, INQUIRER.net intern /atm
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