Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos has spoken to clear her name on the ongoing House of Representatives investigation into the province’s alleged misuse of its funds from the tobacco excise tax, or Republic Act (RA) 7171.
“Unang-una, gusto kong sabihing kwentas klaras kami sa CoA [Commission on Audit]. Iyan ay maliwanag sa akin,” she said, reading from a CoA report, “The share from RA 7171 was used in accordance with the prescribed rules and procedures.”
The transactions in question date back to 2011 and 2012.
According to Marcos, she did not receive any Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) informing her of anomalies in the Provincial Government’s transactions. “Talagang ’yung presumption of regularity… ay klarung-klaro mismo. Ang CoA at mga auditor ang nagsabi na maayos ang pamamalakad sa pondo. Inamin din nila na wala silang pinadalang mga AOM.”
In addition, she explained the issue of “‘Requested By,’ ‘Approved By?’” which many had criticized online, saying that in cases of using a special fund such as the RA 7171, it is really the head of the agency or local government unit (LGU) that both requests and approves the releasing of funds, hence the “Requested By” and “Approved By” boxes in certain documents would correctly bear the same name.
“Iyan talaga ang ginagawa, sapagkat kung makita ninyo, talaga namang alam ng mga mayor ’yan. Ang mga request namin ay tambak-tambak sa dami.
“Sinasabi nila na hindi raw pwede ’yung vehicles,” said Marcos, pointing out that it clearly states in RA 7171 and in RA 10351 that the excise tax may be used for vehicles if they are part of an agricultural transport system, depending on intended usage and justification for the supporting documents.”
She also assured that public bidding had been conducted through the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), a newspaper in general circulation, and public displays throughout the province.
She further pointed out that a cash advance, the mode of payment for the vehicles using RA 7171, is legal, “sigurado lang for a specific purpose para sa bonded employee at higit sa lahat, fully liquidated. “Sabi ng CoA, fully liquidated iyan… Ibig sabihin, walang ghost projects,” Marcos stated, adding, “’Pag pumunta ka sa Ilocos, makikita mo ang bawat isa sa mga mini-truck na ’yan. 110 mini-trucks, all accounted-for at nandiyan sila, pinakikinabangan, naninilbihan, at talagang ginagamit, sagad-sagad, ng ating mga magsasaka.”
Marcos also reminded that the work of Congress is to propose and create laws: “Investigations in aid of legislation, not investigations in aid of persecution of political opponents.
“Mahal ko ang institusyon ng Kamara at ayokong ginigiba sa paraan na ito,” she said, saying that the investigation, which was initiated by Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariñas, stems from local politics instead of legislative functions.
Fariñas had served as governor from 1988 to 1998, while Marcos had been a congresswoman from 1998 to 2007.
“Hindi nagagamit nang husto ang kapangyarihan ng Kongreso na gumawa ng mga batas na makakatulong umahon sa hirap ang taong bayan, na makakatulong mag-develop at magbigay ng imprastruktura sa ating bansa, na makatulong sa ating katahimikan at kabutihan ng ating mga taong bayan.”
Of the hearing scheduled for July 25, Marcos expressed her desire to cooperate and “tell our story,” but pointed out that “Hindi pantay ang laban sa Kongreso. Kung sinong nag-akusa sa ’yo, siya pa rin ang magsisiyasat. Siya pa rin ang maghahatol bilang judge, at sa bandang huli… siya pa rin ang magkukulong at mag-uutos ikulong kung mali o ayon sa hindi nila gustong sagot. Iyan ang problema. Hindi pantay ang laban.”