Ilocos farmers to stage protest at Batasan; call for full investigation of LGU excise tax share


BAGUIO CITY — Ilocos farmers led by the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) are set to hold a protest in the National Capital Region on July 25. The action at the Batasang Pambansa will coincide with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability inquiry on the anomalous transaction of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.

The governor utilized P66.45 million from the province’s Republic Act 7171 share to purchase buses, trucks and multicabs.

“The House investigation on the LGU excise tax share under RA 7171 should also include RA 8240 and the study of fund utilization of all tobacco producing provinces since the laws took effect,” said Zaldy Alfiler, STOP Explitation’s Secretary General.

About 150 leaders from the group’s barangay, municipal and provincial chapters will travel after their protest action in the Ilocos and La Union in connection to the President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. They will press for the inquiry on how other provinces in the region utilized their share to bring significant benefits to tobacco farmers.

Alfiler pointed out that the issue of fund misuse and abuse in Ilocos Norte that highlighted the inquiry is but the tip of the widespread and large-scale corruption of the funds intended to uplift the lives of tobacco farmers. He said that the justice demanded by farmers’ need a more thorough investigation.

“While the investigation and immediate prosecution of Imee Marcos is welcome, the inclusion of bigger fund misuse and corruption in other provinces, and indictment of the officials involved are important steps to ensure that truth and justice for the farmers will prevail,” Alfiler said, adding that, “if P400,000 merits the indictment for graft, then P26.45 and P26 million are more than enough to jail these erring officials.”

Just recently, the Sandiganbayan indicted Carlos Asuncion, former mayor of Sta. Catalina for appropriating P400,000.00 to different organizations that are not related to tobacco farmers.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in 2013 also recommended the filing of graft and corruption charges against four Ilocos Sur governors’ Luis Chavit Singson and Deogracias Victor Savellano for misusing P26 million from the province’s excise tax share.

“Since 1993, we have been demanding that funds from RA 7171 and subsequently in 1997, from RA 8240 be utilize in projects that directly answer agrarian issues such as landlessness, usury and backward production methods but the local governments used the funds for infrastructure projects that are remote to what the farmers really need,” explains Alfiler.

Besides these issues, he stressed that for more than two decades, funds from RA 7171 and 8240 were employed by politicians to strengthen their dynasties and political patronage in the Ilocos region. #


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