Macalintal defends ‘exchange deals’ with clients to win Senate seat

Mara Cepeda
Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal assures voters these 'exchange deals' won't affect his integrity should he be elected senator

LAWYER-TURNED-CANDIDATE. Election lawyer Romy Macalintal is running as an independent candidate, but is part of the Otso Diretso opposition coalition. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Saying there is no “bad taste” in such “exchange deals,” veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal defended his strategy of seeking his former clients’ endorsements in the May senatorial race. 

Macalintal had offered to help his ex-clients with their legal troubles in exchange for boosting his senatorial bid. The senatorial bet justified this during GMA News’ senatorial debate that aired on Saturday, February 9. (WATCH: #TheLeaderIWant: Romulo Macalintal – from election lawyer to candidate)

“Wala naman akong nakikitang conflict of interest doon kasi lahat ng mga kliyente ko’y mga politiko, mga natulungan kong mga kandidato. Kaya hinihiling ko naman sa kanila ikampanya nila ako do’n sa mga lugar nila sapagkat sila’y mga leaders din ng mga nasabing areas,” said Macalintal.

(I don’t see any conflict of interest there, because all my clients are politicians, candidates I was able to help. That’s why I’m asking them to campaign for me in their areas because they are the leaders there.) 

It was in October 2018 that Macalintal told ANC’s Headstart that he is offering “exchange deals” to his former clients: They can help him campaign for senator and Macalintal can help them with their legal problems in return. 

Macalintal, the lead legal counsel of Vice President Leni Robredo in the electoral protest filed against her by ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, has so far been lagging behind in the pre-election surveys.

During the debate, Macalintal explained seeking his ex-clients’ endorsements would mean less resources for him to spend for his campaign. 

“Ayoko na ako ay gagastos nang napakalaki pagkatapos ay kukuha lang ako ng kung anu-ano kapag ako’y naging senador na. ‘Yun ang mas bad taste. Hindi bad taste na ‘yung makipag-exchange deal ka,” said Macalintal.

(What I don’t like is I would spend so much money then I would get more once I become senator. That’s the one with bad taste. Asking for exchange deals does not leave a bad taste in the mouth.)

But should the endorsements help him win a Senate, how can he assure the public he will not engage in other exchange deals as an elected official? For Macalintal, his track record speaks for itself. 

“Kahit kailan hindi ako humingi ng anumang project, hindi ako humiling ng anumang transaksyon. Walang makapagsasabi sa aking politiko na ako ay ginamit ko ‘yung aking relasyon,” said Macalintal. (Never did I ask for any project or transactions. No politician would be able to say I used my relations with him or her.)

“Kung ano ang tama ‘yun ang aking susundin. Kung ano ang kinakailangan, ‘yun ang aking gagawin,” she added. (What is right, I would follow. I would do what needs to be done.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.