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Imee Marcos finally attends House probe on tobacco funds misuse

MANILA, July 25 — Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos on Tuesday finally appeared before the House good government and public accountability hearing into the alleged irregular procurement of PHP66.45 million worth of vehicles by the provincial government.

Marcos made her appearance after receiving a subpoena to attend the fourth hearing for repeatedly snubbing the House panel’s previous invitations.

Marcos said she is ready to answer the questions posed by lawmakers in the congressional probe, but she appealed before the panel to release the six provincial officials, or the so-called “Ilocos 6”, in House detention for approximately 57 days.

Marcos said the Ilocos 6 should not be mixed up with the political mess between the Ilocos Norte political giants –Marcos and Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who initiated the House probe.

“Kung ako ang target nito at political local lamang ang ugat nito, huwag na idamay ang mga empleyadong walang kalaban-laban sa Ilocos Norte. They should not be penalized for telling the truth and they deserve to go home to their loved ones in Ilocos Norte and finally, pauwiin natin sila Mister Chair at handa pa po akong sumagot sa inyong katangunan,” Marcos said.

Marcos was accompanied by her mother, Imelda, as well as her sons, Borgy and Matthew Manotoc.

The committee on good government and public accountability has been conducting an investigation into the provincial government’s alleged misuse of tobacco excise funds amounting to PHP66.45 million.

Six provincial government officials have been in House detention since May 29 after they were held in contempt for giving “evasive answers”.

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.

The mode used in the purchase of vehicles was through cash advances, using the province’s share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No. 7171.

Under RA 7171, the 15 percent share of Virginia tobacco producing provinces shall be allotted for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects as a special support for tobacco farmers.

The purchased vehicles of the provincial government consisted of 40 units of minicabs, five units of buses, and 70 units of Foton mini trucks, totaling PHP66.4 million.

The first check was issued on Dec. 1, 2011 in the amount of PHP18.6 million. Then on May 25, 2012, another check was issued amounting to PHP15.3 million which was followed by another check issued on Sept. 12, 2012 in the amount of P32.5 million. (Filane Mikee Cervantes with Dwight Sunico-OJT/PNA)

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