Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why zero in on Ilocos Norte? Imee Marcos tells House to probe other provinces’ use of tobacco funds

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos has dragged other tobacco producing provinces in the House of Representatives’ investigation on the use of tobacco excise taxes in her bailiwick.

In a letter addressed to the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, Marcos said the use of tobacco excise taxes by Abra, Ilocos Sur and La Union should also be looked into in the interest of fairness.

“Since the province of Ilocos Norte is not the only stakeholder of republic Act 7171, I believe it is only proper and fair that the scope of the inquiry include the other Virgina Tobacco producing provinces of Abra, Ilocos Sur and La Union who are also beneficiaries of the law,” she said in the letter, which was read by Vice Governor Eugenio Angelo Barba during the committee hearing Tuesday (May 16).

Marcos skipped the hearing, purportedly because she was on sick leave.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who also hails from Ilocos Norte, asked the House panel to look into the allegation that Marcos diverted over P66 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles.

Republic Act 7171 states that 15 percent of the cigarette excise tax should be allotted for tobacco farmers in the form of a special fund.

Marcos has insisted the transactions involving the tobacco excise taxes were all above board. She said the cash advances and disbursements all complied with relevant rules, while the Commission on Audit found nothing irregular in the purchases.

“There was nothing improper or irregular with the transactions sought to be investigated by the Committee on Good Government and Accountability. Purchases labeled as irregular in fact complied with all applicable laws and mandated government procurement and bidding procedures, and were duly authorized by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” she said.

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