MANILA, Philippines — The heads of the country’s top two courts on Wednesday urged the House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability to “reconsider” a show-cause order against three justices of the Court of Appeals.
“It is our hope that the House of Representatives reconsider its order and that it, instead, avail of all legal remedies that are provided to it under the Constitution, the law, and the Rules of Court,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. said in a joint statement Wednesday.
“Cognizant of its implications on separation of powers and judicial independence,” the two magistrates expressed “deep concern” over the House committee order, voted on 30-0 by the panel members on Tuesday. The House panel ordered CA Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela of the Special Fourth Division to show cause why they should not be cited for contempt by the House committee that is investigating allegedly anomalous vehicle purchases by the Ilocos Norte government using its tobacco excise tax share.
THE STATEMENT FROM CHIEF JUSTICE SERENO AND CA PRESIDING JUSTICE REYES:
The panel voted unanimously to issue the order to the justices after they issued their own show-cause order for Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the House sergeant-at-arms to explain why they should not be held in contempt for defying an order to present six Ilocos Norte employees detained at the chamber for refusing to answer questions about the vehicle purchases. Lawyers for the so-called “Ilocos 6” had earlier filed with the CA a petition for the writ of habeas corpus after the House leaders ordered the six detained in Congress’ premises.
Alvarez, for his part, had threatened to have the justices disbarred for supposed ignorance of the law and even to have Congress dissolve the appellate court — the budget of which, after all, comes from Congress, according to him.