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No order from me to push people’s initiative, says Romualdez

By: Jeanette Andrade, TIna Santos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 23,2024 - 09:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday denied any link to push Charter change (Cha-cha) via people’s initiative (PI).

He told reporters that he gave no order to members of the House of Representatives to undertake such a campaign, after Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, in a news conference earlier on Monday, linked him to the signature drive behind the PI effort.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Romualdez said.

In his news conference, Dela Rosa supported allegations of bribery in the signature drive, as earlier claimed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the opposition Liberal Party.

In Davao City, people who were convinced to sign a petition for Charter change “were issued claim stubs, probably for Tupad or the AICS,” Dela Rosa said, referring to the welfare programs Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers of the Department of Labor and Employment, and Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“There’s P3,000, there’s P100,” said the senator and former chief of the Philippine National Police, who headed the Davao City police from 2012 to 2013.

Asked who were behind the signature drive there, Dela Rosa answered, “Congressmen in Davao except Congressman Polong and Congressman Ungab” — referring to Rep. Paolo Duterte, the oldest son of former President Rodrigo Duterte and who represents the first congressional district, and third district Rep. Isidro Ungab.

Pressed further if the people’s initiative campaign had the go-ahead of the Speaker, he said: “That’s what the congressman told me.”

Dela Rosa refused to name the lawmaker, saying he might be reprimanded.

“Many congressmen are saying they were just ordered by the leadership,” he said.

READ: Labor groups rally against Charter change, call for wage hike instead

Report bribery

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva on Monday, for his part, urged the public to report any incident of bribery in the signature drive.

“If there is anyone out there who was tricked or deceived into signing and wants to complain and retract their support, don’t be afraid to come forward and report it. Send us or post a video, picture or screenshot of texts showing there was bribery,” he said in a video message to reporters.

“[O]ur people should not be bought, bribed and deceived. It is important that our people are aware and given the right information. They should not be given aid or money in exchange for their signatures,” Villanueva said.

He also appealed to those behind it “to not deceive the people that we need the Charter change to solve society’s problems.”

“This is not the answer to hunger, unemployment, the looming El Niño, and the constant increase in the price[s] of basic commodities,” Villanueva said.


Also on Monday, hundreds of activists gathered outside the House of Representatives in Quezon City to protest the PI campaign.

“Politicians have been maliciously misusing the delivery of government aid and subsidies to solicit signatures for Cha-cha,” activist group Bayan said in a statement.

“Instead of Cha-cha, Congress should focus on passing laws that will uplift the conditions of the people such as substantial wage hike, free land distribution, and support for local producers,” the group added.

The National Federation of Peasant Women of the Philippines (Amihan) also joined the protest.

“We should be critical especially since we cannot expect anything from Marcos because his policies and programs favor the foreigners. Amihan, together with the peasant women in the country, will continue to resist and fight against this,” said Kay Zenaida Soriano, the group’s president.

Earlier on Sunday, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of the Diocese of Kidapawan, the provincial capital of Cotabato, read a pastoral to churchgoers cautioning them against Charter change.

“Do not sign documents or paper without any information and explanation. This is not a ‘people’s initiative.’ This is the initiative of some politicians who have selfish motives and greed for power,” Bagaforo said.

“This is for you to know that our present 36-year-old Constitution does not need any amendment or revision. Instead, it needs to be enforced, to be observed and followed,” he added.

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TAGS: charter change, people's initiative

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