CRACK IN SOLID NORTH? | Marcos-Fariñas tug of turf beguiles House

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Composite Farinas Imee
File photos of House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (image from Philstar) and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos (Facebook image).

Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, News5-InterAksyon

MANILA, Philippines – At the House of Representatives, lawmakers cannot help taking note of the simmering ties between Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and the Marcos clan in the tug of political turf in Ilocos Norte.

The Marcoses and Fariñas used to be allies under what was being pushed as the One Ilocos Norte bloc, but in 2015 they cut ties due to political differences.

Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, the former first lady, husband of the late president Ferdinand Marcos, represents the Second District of Ilocos Norte.

Fariñas represents the First District.

Both officials are in their last terms, and will serve only until 2019.

Last week, the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability conducted a hearing on House Resolution No. 882, authored by Fariñas and Reps. Juan Pablo Bondoc and Johnny Pimentel, on allegations of misuse by Ilocos Norte local officials of the province’s share of the tobacco excise tax collection.

On Tuesday, seven officials from the Ilocos Norte capitol were cited for contempt for not showing up at the hearing.

Governor Imee Marcos was indisposed because of a dermatological infection, and was represented by Vice Governor Eugenio Angelo Barba.

The House resolution branded as highly irregular and a blatant violation of laws the decision of the Ilocos Norte provincial government to purchase motor vehicles amounting to P66.45 million through cash advances charged against the province’s share of excise tax from Virginia-type cigarettes covered by Republic Act No. 7171 (An Act to Promote the Development of the Farmers in the Virginia Tobacco-Producing Provinces).

Based on RA 7171, the 15 percent share of Virginia tobacco producing provinces shall be utilized to advance the self-reliance of the tobacco farmers through cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial and infrastructure projects to benefit the region and the stakeholders.

The accusing lawmakers alleged that the motor-pool purchase violated the provisions of RA 7171, RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) and Presidential Decree 1445 (Government Auditing Code of the Philippines).

In a statement read by Barba, Governor Marcos claimed there was nothing irregular in the acquisition of vehicles intended for the tobacco farmers.

Marcos, a former lawmaker, also took exception to the use of the words “misuse” and “irregular,” saying these “tend to convey bias and oppression” … “which renders the inquiry vulnerable to allegations of abuse of authority, and even political persecution, or at the very least, propelled by interests other than greater public interest.”

“It is in this spirit of fairness that I sincerely request the committee on good government and accountability to address the legitimate concerns, so that the integrity of the proceedings and the legislature itself – of which I was a member for 12 years – is not diminished by a haphazard and unconstitutional exercise of congressional authority,” Marcos said.

In her letter, she explained that the purchase of the vehicles complied with all applicable laws and mandated government procurement and bidding procedures, and was duly authorized by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The purchases also underwent proper audit and post-audit examinations by the Commission on Audit, which found no irregularities in the transaction, Marcos said.