SC, CA ask Congress to recall show cause order against 3 justices

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The senior justices have asked Congress to recall its order to three justices to explain the ruling on employees allegedly involved in the misuse of tobacco funds.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. expressed "deep concern" over the show cause order issued by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability against Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon, and Nina Antionio-Valenzuela, who make up the CA's Special Fourth Division.

The three justices ruled in favor of the release of the provincial employees involved in the ₱66-million purchase of vehicles, which was requested and approved by current Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos in 2011 and 2012.

According to the statement, Sereno and Reyes asked Congress to follow provisions provided by the Constitution and the Rules of Court.

"We note that the House of Representatives is not without any legal remedy that is consistent with the separation of powers should it disagree with the action of the Court of Appeals, such as an appeal," the statement read.

The CA ordered to release the detained employees last June 9, but Congress defied this order. House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the Court of Appeals has no authority over Congress.

This prompted CA to file a show cause order released June 12, citing House Sergeant-At-Arms Lt. Gen. Ronald Detabali who detained the employees in contempt of court.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali responded by moving a show cause order for the justices of the CA. The motion was approved unanimously on a vote of 30 on Tuesday.

Read more: House issues show cause order against 3 CA justices

The six employees have been in detention at the lower chamber for 21 days now.

They were held in contempt for avoiding answering questions during a hearing on May 29 on the alleged malversation of tobacco funds in Ilocos Norte. Audit documents under investigation show they purchased 40 mini-cabs, 5 secondhand buses, and 70 foton mini-trucks.

Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, mother of Imee Marcos, sent a letter of appeal to the Congress on May 16 to release the employees for humanitarian reasons, but her appeal was denied.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Makoi Popioco contributed to this report.