Youth leader denounces ‘bribes’ for Cha-cha

Youth leader denounces ‘bribes’ for Cha-cha
SunStar Local News GPX

A CEBU-BASED youth leader has lamented the alleged bribery attending a people’s initiative for charter change (Cha-cha).

Kyle Enero, chairman of Kabataan Partylist Cebu, told SunStar Cebu Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, that it is deceptive and opportunistic to bribe individuals to sign the petition amending the 1987 Constitution.

“It is very deceptive. It is fooling people to support charter change by way of using government financial programs just to gather sympathy,” said Enero, who is also a Sangguniang Kabataan councilor in Barangay Sambag 1 in Cebu City.

Earlier this week, Sen. Imee Marcos alleged that P20 million was being offered per district to buy voters’ signatures to amend the Constitution, and that government aid programs were being used as conduit for these bribes.

She said signature gathering had begun in the Ilocos, Bicol and Central and Eastern Visayas regions.

Partido Manggagawa Cebu spokesman Dennis Derige said petition forms were being circulated in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu that “call for a constitutional amendment that will allow further amendments to be done through joint voting by the House and Senate.”

Derige said his group had monitored “the organized paid signature drive for Cha-cha in many areas around the country.”

Last December, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government had initiated a study on potential amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution aimed at attracting increased foreign investment.

Reported incidents

According to reports, charter change advocates are touring provinces, offering individuals at least P100 as a form of assistance to influence them to sign the petition, with the money coursed through the aid programs of agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Health.

There are also accounts of local government officials being lured with aid to rally their constituents to support the petition.

A Facebook user expressed her frustrations on social media after receiving what appeared to be a form requesting signatures from her neighborhood. She speculated that it was in exchange for ayuda (aid).

In her Jan. 5 post, she mentioned receiving the form from a representative of a candidate in the previous barangay elections. The document was titled “Petition to amend the constitution through people’s initiative.”

Enero also called the move to amend the Constitution untimely, saying it won’t address the pressing problems of society. He said the government should focus on addressing the societal issues, such as poverty and malnutrition.

Last November, the National Nutrition Council in Central Visayas said Cebu is among the 34 provinces in the Philippines with malnutrition challenges, particularly among children under five. According to a 2022 Operation Timbang Plus report, 8.5 percent, or 55,741 children under five in Central Visayas, experienced stunting.

SunStar Cebu also reported this month that Central Visayas had a staggering 2.56 million poor people, with Cebu leading among the provinces with 1.72 million individuals living in poverty.

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s preliminary statistics for the first semester of 2023 showed that the 31 percent poverty incidence in Central Visayas exceeded the national rate of 22.4 percent that translates to 25.24 million poor Filipinos nationwide.

Be cautious

Enero said that, so far, their network had not received reports of bribery in Cebu. But he mentioned incidents in some parts of Leyte and the Bicol region.

He said he is now gathering information from his fellow SK officials in Cebu to determine if there are incidents here.

Enero urged the public, especially the youth, to be cautious and critical when receiving such documents “to ensure that we are not deceived and that our signatures are not used for political or personal interests, especially when exploiting our circumstances, such as the need for assistance.”

He encouraged the youth to educate themselves for a clear understanding of what Cha-cha is, so they may understand the gravity of the effects of amending the Constitution.


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