Senate probes ‘corruption’ in signature drive for Charter change

MANILA. Senator Imee Marcos.
MANILA. Senator Imee Marcos. Senate photo

THE Senate launched on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, its investigation on the alleged irregularities in the signature campaign concerning the People’s Initiative (PI), which seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The probe was led by the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

MANILA. Senator Imee Marcos.
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Among the agenda of the inquiry is to look into corruption allegations related to the gathering of signatures for PI; transparency, integrity, and accountability in constitutional initiatives; and the need to assess the effectiveness in empowering citizens to propose constitutional changes under Republic Act 6735, or the Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds.

In her opening remarks, Senator Marcos slammed those saying that the Senate has nothing to do with the PI.

"Ito’y pangtatanga sa kapwa, paglulustay ng salapi, at pagsisinungaling ng matatakaw na opisyal. Yang sakit na yan ang papatay sa demokrasya," she said.

(This is fooling others, wasting money, and lying by greedy officials. That disease will kill democracy.)

“Ang sino man na nagsabing walang pakialam ang Senado sa usaping ito, isa lang ang masasabi ko: Walang gamot sa kakapalan ng mukha mo,” she added.

(Whoever said that the Senate doesn't care about this matter, I have only one thing to say: There is no cure for the thickness of your face.)

Senator Marcos did not name names but to recall, her cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, earlier said that the Senate should not meddle in affairs related to PI as it is not part of their job.

“Wala kayong pakialam sa PI. Trabaho 'yan ng taumbayan. Ang Congress at senator, ang trabaho, legislation. PI is power of the people. [You senators should] buckle down to work. There is only 24 of you, get your act together. Focus on your work. Stop hitting on Congress and maintain parliamentary courtesy,” said Romualdez.

Senator Marcos earlier said that she is certain that Romualdez is behind the push for PI for Charter change (Cha-cha) and that he even granted P20 million reward per legislative district in exchange of signatures.

Romualdez vehemently denied the accusations.

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In response to Senator Marcos’ opening statement, Romualdez said that indifferences between families should be settled with a spirit of constructive dialogue and mutual respect.

“The phrase ‘Walang gamot sa kakapalan ng mukha mo,’ as expressed by Senator Marcos, reflects a passionate stance on issues we both care deeply about. As public servants, our primary focus should always be on the welfare of our constituents and the progress of our nation. It is in this light that I choose to interpret her words as a call to engage more deeply in our shared commitment to serve the Filipino people,” said Romualdez.

“Ang pakiusap ko lang kay Senator Imee. Hindi po kailangan ng bastusan. Pinakikinggan tayo ng mga kabataan at hindi magandang ehemplo ang ganito,” he added.

(My only request is for Senator Imee not to be rude. Young people listen to us and this is not a good example.)

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During the hearing, People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (Pirma) lead convenor Noel Oñate said he sought help from Romualdez in order to boost the signature drive, particularly to get three percent of signatures per congressional district.

The signature drive for PI seeks to amend Article 17 Section 1 of the Constitution in order for both chambers of Congress to vote jointly in future Cha-cha efforts.

Five witnesses whose faces were concealed were presented during the hearing and narrated that they were given money in exchange for their signature.

While Senator Marcos commended the witnesses for coming out, Sagip Representative Rodante Marcoleta said if they really are brave, they should show their faces.

“Ang alam ko sa mga matatapang na witnesses ay talagang haharapin nila ang lahat ng consequences,” he said.

(What I know about brave witnesses is that they will really face all the consequences.)

MANILA. Senator Imee Marcos.
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In response, the witnesses said they are afraid that those who asked for their signature will get back at them.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri noted that it is the right of the witnesses to choose whether or not they will conceal their identities for protection during such proceedings.

On January 23, the Senate unanimously signed a manifesto rejecting the PI for Cha-cha which the chamber tagged as a “brazen attempt to violate the Constitution, the country and our people.”

It noted that the Senate, which has 24 members, will be outnumbered and cannot cast any meaningful vote against the House of Representatives, which has 316 members.

The committee issued a subpoena against Attorney Anthony Abad, who is allegedly the proponent of PI. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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