Espinoza: Collusion?

Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free ZoneFile photo

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has begun the counting and verification of the signatures that were gathered from different congressional districts supposedly as a people’s initiative (PI) to amend a provision or provisions of our 1987 Constitution before a petition for the PI is filed.

These signatures were collected under a cloud of doubt because of the alleged promise of money in return, which is contrary to the intent of the law on the PI.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal described the PI as a waste of time and paper because these signature sheets “have no evidentiary value” or cannot be the basis of an initiative. “It gives a wrong impression to the people that an initiative to amend the Charter has already been properly or validly initiated,” Macalintal said in an interview with reporters in Manila.

Opposition leaders and critics of the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos (BBM) Jr. described the PI as a sham since it is the politicians who are behind the signature campaign and not the people. Despite the denial of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez that he is the PI initiator, all fingers point to him as the source because, to recall, the People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma) lead convenor Noel Oñate bragged that he had spoken with Speaker Romualdez on their group’s signature campaign.

Besides, House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Second District Rep. Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe said that since 1987, it has been the advocacy of the Speaker since he became congressman to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution. Dalipe further said that “the Speaker had already thanked the Senate for finally acting on our push to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution.”

Macalintal is of the view that the signatures for the PI cannot be submitted ahead of the petition for the PI. But Comelec spokesman John Rex Laudiangco said the processes being carried out by local poll offices are in compliance with Comelec Resolution 10650.

Macalintal pointed out that the Comelec has no jurisdiction at this time over any move for Charter change through the PI after Comelec Chairman George Garcia admitted that no petition on the matter has been filed with Comelec.

Did anyone see that apparent collusion among the Upper House and the Lower House, and the Comelec on this supposed PI? The move alone of the Comelec to start receiving, counting, and verifying the gathered signatures even without the petition for a PI is simply suspicious and the move of Senator Zubiri in the Upper House pushing for Charter change on the economic provision of the 1987 Constitution.

Why would the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Benhur Abalos rebuke his DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Chito Valmocina for saying that the barangay officials involved in the signature may face sanctions?

“I want to clarify, number one, these are just his (Valmocina) opinion and this is not the official stand or position of the DILG with reference to the matter on the role of the barangay officials in this people’s initiative. This is a sensitive issue,” Abalos said. Is it because the barangay officials are actively involved?

Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of BBM and cousin of House Speaker Romualdez, who earlier said that Charter change is not the priority of her brother as it might distract the administration from solving the real problems of the country, is now suddenly silent on this PI issue.

I wonder if my neighbors, who are under the congressional district of Rep. Cutie del Mar in Cebu City, were invited or asked to sign the sheets that will be submitted later to the Comelec for verification. Or, how about the constituents of Mandaue City Rep. Emmarie “Lolypop” Ouano-Dizon?

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