FORMER President Rodrigo Duterte strongly criticized those advocating for constitutional amendments, particularly the People's Initiative (PI), which he firmly believed should remain untouched.
Speaking at the "Unity for One Nation, One Prayer" rally in San Pedro Square, Davao City, on Sunday, January 29, Duterte accused First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and House Speaker Martin Romualdez of orchestrating the PI.
Expressing his disbelief, Duterte questioned why the PI was even considered, stating, "Bakit pumasok sa utak ninyo ‘yang People’s Initiative? Anong nakain ninyo? There’s nothing wrong with the Constitution right now. The environment of the Philippines seems to be positive. Wala namang problema (What got into your minds? There's nothing wrong with the Constitution right now. The Philippines' environment seems positive. There are no problems)."
He dismissed the need for constitutional changes and viewed the initiative as a waste of taxpayers' money.
Duterte accused those behind the PI of committing "fraud" and "bribery."
"You must [be accounted] for the money that you bought the signature of a Filipino. [That's] bribery (You must be held accountable for the money you spent to buy the signature of a Filipino. That's bribery)."
He emphasized the misuse of public funds, condemning the alleged buying of votes or signatures, calling it a betrayal of the public's trust.
Expressing skepticism, Duterte claimed that neither the national government nor the organizers held seminars or forums to educate the public about the proposed constitutional amendments. He accused them of wanting to keep the Filipino people ignorant, saying, "Ni wala kayong mga seminar… You never educated the Filipino people. You want the Filipino people to remain ignorant para you can do what you want with the country. Yan ang totoo kasi ginag**o ninyo para walang alam ang taong bayan (You never educated the Filipino people. You want the Filipino people to remain ignorant so you can do what you want with the country)."
Duterte challenged active soldiers to arrest lawmakers for alleged misuse of public funds and threatened to order their arrest if re-elected.
He questioned the motives behind the constitutional amendment, expressing doubts about transitioning from a democratic to a parliamentary government.
The former Davao City mayor also voiced concerns about the potential for President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to seek a term extension.
As a lawyer and former prosecutor, Duterte harbors doubts about the amendment's purpose, suggesting it could serve as a means for Marcos to extend his term, similar to his father's 20-year rule.
Expressing skepticism, Duterte also lacks trust in the assemblyman, the counterpart of the congressman, within a parliamentary government. He said, “Wala akong tiwala sa inyo. Wala kayong prinsipyo. Mukhang pera kayong lahat (I don't trust you. You lack principles. You all seem money-driven).”
Furthermore, Duterte alleged that Rodriguez, Marcos' cousin, is eyeing the position of prime minister if the constitutional amendment succeeds.
He reminded Marcos of his single-term limit and cautioned that seeking an extension could lead to chaos.
“Ikaw, Mr. President [Marcos Jr.], hintayin mo ‘yang six years. Kalimutan mo na ‘yang kay Romualdez kasi iyan lang ang magpahamak sa’yo (Mr. President [Marcos Jr.], wait for those six years. Forget about Romualdez because that's the only thing that will harm you),” he said.
Several senators, including Imee Marcos, pointed to her cousin as the force behind the PI for charter change.
Davao del Norte First District Rep. and former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez echoed similar claims.
In a press conference on Friday, January 26, Romualdez denied the allegations surrounding the PI.
He dismissed the speculation, referring to it as "gossip" and emphasizing that it was mere speculation.
Romualdez urged the Senate to concentrate on their responsibilities, particularly approving the administration’s priority legislation, instead of criticizing the House of Representatives.
The rally against the PI in Davao City saw the Duterte family's participation, led by the former President, Vice President Sara Duterte, Davao City First District Representative Paolo Duterte, and Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte.
They all expressed opposition to the constitutional amendment and the alleged "cash for signature" scheme in the activity. RGL