THE magistrates of the Court of Appeals who ordered the release of six Ilocos Norte officials being detained by the House of Representatives for contempt yesterday stood pat on their decision, despite Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s threat to file a disbarment case against them and to abolish the appellate court.
Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, one of the three members of the CA Fourth Division handling the “Ilocos Six” case, stressed they are standing by their writ of habeas corpus and show cause order to House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali. Cruz spoke about the conflict with the House leader when he faced the Judicial and Bar Council for his application to a vacancy in the Supreme Court to be left by the retirement of Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes next month.
“What we did was our duty,” he said, when asked about Alvarez’s threat to abolish the CA.
“If we falter because of some threats, that would show our weakness as magistrates.And as I have said a while ago, let justice be done though the heavens fall. If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court,” Cruz added.
The CA justice said he would also welcome any disbarment case that the Speaker is reportedly planning against them.
Cruz explained that they issued the writ “to determine really if the detention was legal.”
“We want the bodies to be presented to the court and the person who is detaining them, and determine whether it is legal. Because if it is legal, we will dismiss the petition,” he said.
As for the release order, he replied: “That was pursuant to a case, Enrile vs Salazar wherein persons subject of writ of habeas corpus, while the merits are being determined, can be released on bail.”
The other two members of the CA division are Associate Justices Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonino-Valenzuela.
Another CA magistrate who also faced the JBC yesterday, Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, defended her colleagues in the appellate court from attacks by the House leadership.
“He (Alvarez) is very emotional. He must know the limits of his power,” she stressed.
The habeas corpus case involves the petition of Pedro Agcaoili, Provincial Planning and Development Office chairperson; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Eden Battulayan, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Encarnacion Gaor, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; Genedine Jambaro, Provincial Treasurer’s Office staff; and Evangeline Tabulog, provincial budget officer.
They have been detained since May 29 after being cited in contempt by the House committee on good government and public accountability during its probe into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.