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MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Martin Romualdez maintained that lawmakers in the lower chamber are not involved in the ongoing signature drive calling for constitutional amendments.
In a statement on Tuesday, January 23, Romualdez said the House “does not endorse or sanction direct participation by its members in signature gathering” as it would erode the essence of the movement being a people’s initiative.
The House Speaker also criticized those who are allegedly offering registered voters cash in exchange for their signatures.
“Such actions, if true, would violate the initiative’s spirit of honest and voluntary participation and erode our democratic foundations,” he said.
This comes amid reports that some lawmakers are involved in the collection of signatures in their provinces. (READ: ‘Let’s safeguard the Constitution’: Sara Duterte slams ‘vote-buying’ for charter change)
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman previously raised alarm after mayors from his province allegedly received “mobilization funds” to get the petition started in their towns and pointed to Ako Bicol party coordinators. This was denied by Raymond Adrian Salceda, president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Albay Chapter, and Ako Bicol Representative Jil Bongalon.
In Davao City, 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte accused PBA Representative Margarita Nograles of leading the signature drive. Nograles has yet to directly respond to Duterte’s claims.
The House Speaker himself has been accused of being behind the campaign to gather signatures, which he already denied.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez said he did not give marching orders to congressmen to kickstart charter change via people’s initiative.— Kaycee Valmonte (@kayceevalmonte) January 22, 2024
“That’s Senator Bato talking, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” says Romualdez pic.twitter.com/lgXNn6Qg6O
“While the House respects and supports the people’s initiative as an independent, citizen-driven process, our role is to facilitate and encourage democratic participation without direct involvement in signature collection,” Romualdez said.
There have been multiple attempts to amend the Constitution over the years, with lawmakers from the House leading efforts. However, these attempts were unsuccessful, with senators being less than enthusiastic to pursue charter change.
Romualdez said last December that there is a need to lift “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution. (READ: How Philippine economy opened up to the world without charter change)
For a people’s initiative to succeed, collected signatures must account for at least 3% of registered voters per legislative district and 12% of the country’s total registered voters – which is around 8 million, based on 2022 numbers.
Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda previously said the minimum number of required signatures for the petition may be reached by this week.
Kabataan Partylist has claimed that those behind the petition hope to get a plebiscite done before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s third State of the Nation Address in July. – Rappler.com