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‘Marcos Six’ plus one

They’re called the “Marcos Six,” officials of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte who have so far refused to shed light on — or claim to have forgotten — the details behind the P66.4-million purchase of vehicles from the tobacco excise tax.

They’re called the “Marcos Six” because the officials are all serving under the authority of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos. She is ultimately responsible for the collection and disbursement of the province’s share of the tax that is supposed to be used for the welfare of the province’s tobacco farmers.

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Instead, the money was used to buy 115 vehicles — 40 multicabs, 70 Foton minitrucks and five buses — which were supposedly distributed to different local government units.

When the House committee on good government and public accountability held its initial hearings on the matter, said 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador “Bong” Belaro, the six all seemed to suffer from “all-encompassing blanket amnesia.” No one wanted to divulge any details, saying even the original documents covering the transactions had been “lost.”

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In the popular mind, the case has been cast as a dispute between Marcos and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas. (Both their terms end in 2019, and both are said to be grooming dueling successors to their posts.) But another member of the committee, ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera, says their hearings “in aid of legislation” is aimed at checking possible abuse or misuse of government money.

But the case has gone far beyond fiscal accountability. Because they refused to give answers to the legislators’ questions, the “Marcos Six” are deemed to have committed contempt and are currently in detention in the House security building. They have, in turn, sought relief from the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The House leadership has warned the judiciary against intervening in its procedures, with some predicting a “constitutional crisis.” It is, says Belaro, “judicial encroachment on congressional power.”

Meanwhile, many are eagerly waiting for the possible detention of Marcos who has so far refused to appear before the committee.

Reducing the controversy over the alleged misuse of tobacco excise taxes to conflict among the Ilocos Norte executives, the judiciary and the House plays right into our penchant for personalizing even the most basic principles of governance.

It is indeed possible that local politics may be behind this case, with Fariñas raising it to the national level by calling for a congressional investigation. But isn’t it also about time that officials—local or national—were held to account for the way they spend our tax money? There are, after all bigger matters than the latent (or relentless) ambitions of our politicians.

* * *

Another Marcos — who, it turns out, is a distant relative of Imee, Bongbong and Imelda — now finds himself the subject of fevered speculation.

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Supt. Marvin Marcos commanded the team of CIDG operatives who last November barged into the Baybay City subprovincial jail supposedly to serve a warrant of arrest on Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa. The police ended up killing Espinosa and another inmate.

Suspended while an investigation was conducted, Marcos and his cohorts, collectively known as the “Albuera 19,” have not only been exonerated but also reinstated to their posts.

The FSGO, a group of former government officials, said in a statement that the policemen “clearly placed loyalty to President Duterte (who had said he wanted to see the mayor dead) before their oath to uphold the Constitution.” Mr. Duterte, in turn, has turned the police force “into a personal private army.”

The kid-glove treatment of the “Albuera 19” has irked even administration senators. The FSGO said it wants to see public reaction broadened, asking not just legislators and legal experts but all Filipinos “to send Mr. Duterte the message: he is crossing a line that no president should be permitted to transgress. We do not elect kings or dictators.”

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TAGS: Albuera 19, At Large, Ilocos Six, imee marcos, Marcos Six, Marvin Marcos, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodolfo Fariñas, Rolando Espinosa Sr, Salvador Belaro
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