Fariñas to sue Ilocos Norte board members for persona non grata declaration

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas

MANILA — Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Tuesday he would file graft charges against and seek damages from the Ilocos Norte Sanggunian Panlalawigan (provincial board) members who voted to declare him persona non grata in the province.

In a message to reporters, Fariñas, who is Ilocos Norte first district representative, said the council could not declare him, or any Filipino citizen, persona non grata, because that would only apply to aliens.

Fariñas said the eight Sanggunian Panlalawigan members who approved the provincial resolution declaring him persona non grata in Ilocos Norte caused injury to him through evident bad faith and thus may be liable for the offense of graft.

“It would only affect those who voted for such as I will file cases against them for damages for the violation of my constitutional rights, as well as for a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing me undue injury thru evident bad faith,” Fariñas said.

“I am a citizen of this country, and no one, especially Sangguniang Panlalawigan members, can declare me, or any other citizen of this country, a persona non grata,” he added. “Not even convicted criminals are declared as such. I am the duly elected representative of the first district of Ilocos Norte, and the majority leader of the House of Representatives.”

Fariñas made the statement as the rift between him and the Ilocos Norte provincial government, led by Gov. Imee Marcos, culminated in his persona non grata status.

Fariñas said the order of the provincial council to declare him persona non grata essentially meant he was “ostracized” in his own district.

“In non-diplomatic usage, referring to someone as persona non grata is to say that he or she is ostracized,” he said. “Such a person is for all intents and purposes culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively non-existent. That is what those eight have done to me!”

The Ilocos Norte provincial government declared Fariñas as persona non grata as the House, at the instigation of Fariñas, detained six of its officials for contempt after they failed to respond to questions during the House inquiry into the alleged misuse of the provincial government’s tobacco funds.

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountabilityinvestigating the alleged fund anomaly had even prepared a detention room for Marcos, who faces arrest for snubbing the House probe.

The House even refused to comply with the Court of Appeals’ granting of the writ of habeas corpus ordering the release of the officials, who have been detained since May 29.

The refusal of the House to comply with the writ resulted in a clash with the Court of Appeals, which Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez threatened to abolish.

In calling for the probe, Fariñas alleged that about P66.45 million tobacco funds were used to purchase minicabs, buses and minitrucks for Ilocos Norte municipalities, even though the law — Republic Act 7171 — that imposed the tax on Virginia cigarettes states that the excise tax should be used for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects benefitting the tobacco farmers.

Fariñas is on his last term in Congress, raising speculations that he would challenge the governors’ anointed one in the provincial capitol. Marcos is on her last term as governor.