Romualdez sidesteps allegation he ordered People's Initiative signature drive

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Romualdez sidesteps allegation he ordered People's Initiative signature drive
House Speaker Martin Romualdez on July 24, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines —  House Speaker Martin Romualdez has shrugged off a senator’s allegation that he ordered lawmakers to gather signatures for the campaign to amend the 1987 Constitution via People’s Initiative. 

Without outright denying Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s accusation, Romualdez said: “That’s Senator Bato talking. I don’t know what he is talking about. He has not mentioned any congressman. I do not respond to general statements.”

Romualdez gave this curt response during an ambush interview at the sidelines of a House event on Monday.

During a press conference on the same day, Dela Rosa, who is against the People’s Initiative, said Romualdez gave marching orders for House lawmakers to collect signatures for the People’s Initiative campaign. 

The senator said: “Yun sabi sakin ng congressman eh. Pero di ko na sabihin sino. Baka pagalitan sya. (That’s what a congressman told me. But I won’t say who. He might be reprimanded).”

“Following orders lang daw sila (They’re just following orders),” Dela Rosa said.

Several minority House lawmakers first flagged the People's Initiative campaign in early January after they received reports that local executives were being mobilized to distribute the petition forms and pay people to sign them.

RELATED: Lawmakers flag 'vote-buying' in Charter change signature campaign

Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay, 2nd District) last week confirmed that "proponents" of the People's Initiative campaign, which he supports, are targeting to hold plebiscites for the proposed changes to the Charter by June 2024. 

The Commission on Elections has also confirmed receiving signature pages from more than 700 cities or municipalities. While the poll body said that they have yet to receive a formal petition, they have also floated the possibility of pausing the voter registration for the 2025 midterm elections to give way to the verification of the signatures. 

In a statement on the same day, House Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe implied that Dela Rosa’s claim was a “baseless speculation” and stressed that Romualdez is supportive of the Senate’s push for Charter change.

“The Speaker has already thanked the Senate for finally taking action on our push to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution. The House has been pushing this since 1987 and this has been an advocacy of the Speaker since he became a congressman and now as a Speaker,” Dalipe said.

Dalipe said that House leaders will follow the lead of the Senate in pushing for Charter change after the upper chamber filed a resolution of both Houses proposing to limit all possible amendments to economic provisions. 

“We hope that the Senate can approve this soon so that we can end all these baseless speculations,” he added.

The petition being circulated for the People’s Initiative campaign does not propose any change to the Constitution’s economic provisions. 

Instead, it wants to amend the Constitution to allow Congress to vote for amendments or revisions through joint voting, which will give the lower chamber an upper hand as they outnumber the 24-member Senate. 

While President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has criticized the People’s Initiative campaign for being “too divisive,” according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, he has not ordered to stop the signature drive. 

Marcos' statement, however, has been misinterpreted by certain disinformation actors to falsely claim that the president has ordered to stop the campaign, according to a fact-check by VERA Files.  

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