Martin Romualdez

Group wants Romualdez to guarantee reported Harvard donation not gov’t funds

Dwight de Leon

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Group wants Romualdez to guarantee reported Harvard donation not gov’t funds

HOUSE LEADER. Speaker Martin Romualdez presides a session in September 2023

House press and public affairs bureau

‘Why the need to keep the donation a secret? Is it because Speaker Martin Romualdez is a philanthropist who quietly helps? Or because the Marcoses and the Romualdezes don’t want the public to know where the funds come from?’ says CARMMA

MANILA, Philippines – The number of groups pressuring Philippine House Speaker Martin Romualdez to disclose the details of his reported multi-million-dollar donation to fund Harvard University’s Filipino language course continues to increase.

The latest to seek full transparency from the country’s fourth highest leader is the progressive group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which wants to ensure “that the significant sum was not sourced from government funds, given the enormous needs of the Philippine education system.”

“The Filipino people must know that no public funds have been diverted for personal initiatives when they could be put to much better use within our schools. Our students, teachers, and education workers deserve better,” ACT chairperson Vladimer Quetua said in a statement on Monday, September 18.

Last week, two other groups – Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), and the US Filipinos for Good Governance – flagged the secrecy surrounding Romualdez’s supposed donation to the Cambridge-based private institution.

Romualdez issued a statement on Sunday, September 17, declining to confirm or deny whether he made the donation worth $2 million (P113.7 million).

That amount is equivalent to around 25% of his P475-million net worth in 2016, the last time he made public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN).

“In light of recent speculations regarding my alleged donation to Harvard University, I choose to respect the institution’s gift policy,” he said. “Harvard has already communicated that they ‘do not discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts,’ and I stand by that principle.”

Source of pride, but…

ACT said that while the initiative to promote the Tagalog language in the global stage is commendable, there are more pressing issues at home.

“Our education system is currently grappling with severe shortages in teachers, classrooms, facilities, learning and teaching materials, and education support personnel,” Quetua said.

“If Speaker Romualdez sincerely wants to achieve significant milestones for the country, we urge him to pay due attention and exert more efforts to fortifying our own education system,” he added.

In August, the country started the new school year for basic education with a shortage of 159,000 classrooms, significantly higher from last year.

Thousands of government teaching posts also remain vacant, partly due to low salary that discourages teachers from applying.

On Sunday, Romualdez called the introduction of the Filipino language course at Harvard a “significant milestone” that would help in “promoting and preserving our Filipino identity.”

Press coverage

US-based magazine FilAm first reported on August 29 that the Philippine House Speaker donated $1 million for the Filipino language instructor position at Harvard.

The Harvard Crimson, the daily newspaper of the institution, also wrote on September 14 that “funding for the preceptor position wasn’t guaranteed to last longer than three years – until Romualdez’s pledge” of $2 million.

Both publications cited well-placed sources who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity.

Philippine news outlet carried the exclusive report by The FilAm on its website, but subsequently took it down, as pointed out by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Rene Ciria Cruz, the US editor of, resigned from his post as a result of the article’s takedown.

The Inquirer Group of Companies – of which is under – is led by Sandy Prieto Romualdez, whose husband Philip is the brother of Speaker Martin.

“We, in CARMMA, are concerned about what appears to be press censorship with the removal of the article,” the anti-martial law group said on September 14. “At the same time we condemn this donation as a vanity project, a project towards rehabilitating the Marcos name.”

“Why the need to keep the donation a secret? Is it because Speaker Martin Romualdez is a philanthropist who quietly helps? Or because the Marcoses and the Romualdezes don’t want the public to know where the funds come from?” it added.

Romualdez is among the country’s wealthiest legislators, but we have yet to see an updated copy of his SALN because Rappler’s request with the Speaker’s office has been pending since May.

The veteran congressman – a first-degree cousin of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. – leads a supermajority alliance in the House of Representatives, whose independence has been questioned by the government’s staunchest critics.

In his first year as House speaker, Romualdez and his chamber faced numerous controversies, including the creation of a sovereign wealth fund, the push for charter change, the postponement of an election which was later declared unconstitutional, and an alleged ouster plot against him. –

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) for asking Speaker Martin Romualdez to be transparent about his “multi-million-dollar donation to fund Harvard University’s Filipino language course.” Nowadays, it takes courage to question powerful politicians like PBBM, VP Sara Duterte and Speaker Romualdez. At this early, concerned Filipino citizens must know about the character of a person who was referred to as a person having a Presidential ambition. The Filipino People must know what kind of President – Speaker Martin Romualdez will become. Can he be the Lesser Evil compared to VP Sara Duterte?

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.