Makabayan bloc seeks probe into funding of charter change initiatives

Makabayan bloc seeks probe into funding of charter change initiatives
This photo shows a screengrab from a video aired on television about the 1987 Constitution.

MANILA, Philippines — Makabayan lawmakers filed a resolution to investigate the alleged use of public funds and signature-buying for the people's initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution.

In a resolution Reps. France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) and Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Party-list) called for a probe by the House’s committee on public accounts, stressing the public deserves to know the source of funding for the renewed attempt to change the Constitution. 

Lawmakers from the lower chamber are pushing for constitutional changes, saying they would focus on relaxing restrictions that prevent foreign ownership.

The Makabayan lawmakers cited reports that monetary payment and government social protection programs were allegedly used to encourage the public to sign the petition in support of the charter change through people’s initiative. 

The programs include the Department of Social Welfare and Development Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), Department of Labor and Employment’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), and the Department of Health’s Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients Program (MAIPP).

Sen. Imee Marcos claimed last week that each congressional district was offered up to P20 million to gather enough signatures to support the charter change initiative. Rep. Edcel Lagman also alleged that funds were released for a P100-per-voter campaign for charter change. 

“It is not just unconstitutional but immoral to use social protection programs and public funds to gather supporters through bribery for climate change,” the Makabayan resolution read.

The signature campaign advocates for amending the Constitution to require the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote jointly on constitutional changes, which Makabayan said “will effectively overrule the wisdom of the Senate.”

'Greed, interest of the few'

The Makabayan lawmakers also criticized a paid advertisement on the alleged failures of the 1987 Constitution. It repeatedly used the tagline “na-Edsa-pwera”—a play on the word “echapwera,” meaning set aside. 

A screenshot of the advertisement showed that it was paid for by Makati-based law firm Gana Atienza Avisado Law Office. 

“The ongoing signature-buying and the paid advertisement seem to be part of a coordinated effort to force and railroad the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Section 7, Article VI, in order to allow foreigners to wholly own lands, businesses and educational institutions in our country,” the resolution read.

It also said that Filipinos should not be robbed of their own land and future “just to feed the bottomless greed and interest of the few for more profit.”

In a statement, rights group Karapatan said the charter change through people’s initiative is a “patently Marcosian scheme to facilitate foreign imperialist plunder of the economy which will benefit only the foreigners’ business allies among the local elite.”

“It is a scheme that will run roughshod over the Filipino people’s economic and political rights,” it added. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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