charter change

PIRMA lead says Romualdez helped them in Cha-Cha signature drive

Bonz Magsambol

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PIRMA lead says Romualdez helped them in Cha-Cha signature drive

Angie de Silva/Rappler

PIRMA lead convenor Noel Oñate also discloses in a Senate hearing that they spent P55 million for a paid advertisement on the supposed 'failures' of the Constitution to highlight the need for charter change

MANILA, Philippines – The lead convenor of the People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (PIRMA) admitted on Tuesday, January 30, that House Speaker Martin Romualdez “helped” them in the signature campaign they initiated for the supposed people’s initiative to amend the Constitution.

PIRMA lead convenor Noel Oñate told senators in a hearing that they coordinated with House lawmakers to get 3% of signatures per congressional district, noting that in one of those meetings held, Romualdez was present.

Oñate at first denied that he ever met with Romualdez, but Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms, flashed a photo of him together with Romualdez and other House members, with the caption “People’s Initiative for Charter Change Staff meeting” dated January 8.

“I received this photo and I believe it was one of the meetings that you alleged Mr. Onate. Can you identify the people in the photograph? People’s Initiative for Charter Change Staff Meeting January 8. Can you tell us who are in the picture Mr. Onate, please,” Marcos said.

 “You said you never met the Speaker nor Mr. Zaldy Co, our congressman. You are under oath, sir,” she added.

“That was the time that I met with the Speaker,” Oñate replied.

“Kasasabi mo lang na hindi naman kayo nagkita. Sabi ‘nyo sina Congressman [Alfredo] Garbin lang,” Marcos said in response. (You just said that you didn’t meet. You said it was only Congressman Garbin.)

“Yes. Because it slipped my mind. It slipped my mind, Madam Senator,” Oñate explained.

When Marcos asked, “Is Speaker Martin Romualdez supporting your group?” Oñate said: “That was the time I sought the help of the Speaker to help us in our signature campaign. Yes.”

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Romualdez denied any involvement in attempts to revise the Constitution through people’s initiative.

“The meeting with the people’s initiative representatives was an exercise in this commitment. My role, as misinterpreted by some, is not as an orchestrator but as a facilitator for healthy democratic processes,” he said in a statement. 

“I firmly deny any allegations of involvement in unlawful activities such as vote-buying related to this or any other initiative. Such practices are against my principles and the ethical standards of our government,” he added. 

P55 million for TV ad

In the same Senate inquiry, Oñate disclosed that PIRMA spent P55 million for a paid advertisement on the supposed “failures” of the 1987 Constitution to highlight the need for charter change.

“The advertisement costed P55 million with ABS-CBN, TV5, and GMA7,” he said, adding that the funds spent for the advertisement were his money and from his friends.

“That’s my money. [The rest] are contributions from my friends and our supporters,” Oñate said. He refused to give the names of his “friends” who contributed to the ad payment until they give permission.

Amid questions surrounding the people’s initiative, the Commission on Elections decided to stop proceedings related to charter change. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.