Cabaero: Name the PI movers

Beyond 30
Cabaero: Name the PI movers

An interesting sidelight to the unfolding of the people’s initiative (PI) campaign is the demand to know who the people are behind an advertisement promoting amendments to the Constitution.

It is interesting because disclosing the identities of those who paid for the television advertisement will reveal who are the people behind the push to amend the Constitution via the PI mode. Once their identities are known, there can be transparency and a determination of sincerity in the people seeking the changes. Finally, then, we can move forward to talking about the merits of the proposed constitutional amendments.

Without transparency, motives of those pushing for constitutional reform become suspect.

The “EDSA-pwera” television commercial aired on January 9, 2024, and sought to discredit the 1987 Constitution by saying it failed to improve education and agriculture. It also belittled the Edsa People Power Revolution. “EDSA-pwera” sounds like “echapwera” which in English means to leave out or ostracize.

People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (Pirma) lead convenor Noel Oñate said in a Senate hearing last month on the move to amend the Constitution that the advertisement cost P55 million and he paid half of it. The other half, he said, came from several contributors whose identities he could not recall.

Sen. Francis Escudero and Sen. Risa Hontiveros demanded that Oñate reveal the identities of the donors for reasons of transparency and because the move to amend the Charter is a public interest issue. Escudero said that revealing those who paid for the ad was “not something to be ashamed of” anyway.

But Oñate delayed revealing their identities even now, prompting Hontiveros to threaten Pirma of criminal charges for disobeying a Senate order. The Senate panel on electoral reforms and people’s participation had issued a subpoena ordering Oñate to name the donors who helped pay for the P55 million-worth commercial. The Pirma head has said the donors are invoking their right to privacy.

While it is true there is no requirement for Oñate to name them, a public interest issue such as amending the Constitution requires transparency and accountability. The people behind the television advertisement could be the same people bankrolling efforts to amend the Constitution via PI.

The PI route has been marked not so much with discussion on the merits of the proposed changes than the quarrels and opposing views of the many players involved. There were disagreements between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the controversy over the “purchase” of signatures to the PI petition, the Commission on Elections decision allowing the recall of signatures, and now, the controversy over the funding of the advertisement and, thus, the campaign itself.

So, we go back to the advertisement. Revealing the names of those who paid for the advertisement would measure the sincerity of PI movers and help move forward the discussion on the merits or demerits of the proposed changes.

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