Imee: Romualdez ‘definitely’ behind P20 million for people’s initiative support

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — It was Speaker Martin Romualdez who was behind the distribution of cash amounting to as much as P20 million per district to bankroll the ongoing signature campaign as part of the people’s initiative for Charter change, Sen. Imee Marcos said yesterday.

“Definitely, it was his office which offered P20 million per district. Definitely, it was in his office where a number of staffers and attorney are involved,” Marcos, a cousin of Romualdez, said at a virtual press briefing.

Marcos, who served for three terms as Ilocos Norte district representative, also revealed being informed by her sources in Congress of the “attenuated timeline” set by the Speaker’s office for the signature drive to be finished by July 9.

Marcos earlier alleged in a CNN Philippines interview that proponents of the people’s initiative wanted the gathered signatures to be submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for verification from February to March, and for the poll body to hold a plebiscite to ratify the proposed amendment on June 17. They hope to have the results certified by the Comelec on July 8.

“It will all be finished on July 9,” she said of the proposed amendment to the Constitution, which seeks to convene a constituent assembly (con-ass) where the two houses of Congress would vote on Charter change as one instead of separately.

Senators have voiced opposition to the arrangement, saying it would dissolve the Senate’s 24 votes in a con-ass that is sure to be dominated by the 300-strong House of Representatives.

Marcos also branded as “doublespeak” Romualdez’s Jan. 25 letter to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, vowing House support for the Senate Resolution of Both Houses 6, which seeks to ease constitutional restrictions on advertising, public utilities, educational institutions, among others – through legislation, by inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

While the Speaker vowed that the House would follow the Senate’s lead, Romualdez in the letter also said the chamber would “support an alternative people’s initiative led by the Senate with the proposition on amendments to the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.”

“There seems to be a measure of confusion or even double talk,” Marcos said. “But I’m not saying the letter showed that he is two-faced or he is lying. On its face, the letter is confusing. It’s incomprehensible.”

Doubtful sincerity

While Romualdez promised to defer to the Senate in a deal reached between him and Zubiri during a Jan. 11 meeting with President Marcos at Malacañang, the senator Marcos expressed doubts on her cousin’s sincerity.

Marcos said her cousin had already “defied the agreement with the Senate that was forged in the presence of the President” by bankrolling the people’s initiative.

“During the Jan. 11 meeting he was already told to stop the people’s initiative and prioritize the Senate Resolution of Both Houses 6. But the opposite happened. Clearly, the Speaker did not follow the President,” Marcos said.

“They are abusing the President’s kindness. It is useless talking to a person who is not true to his word,” she added.

She admitted having developed serious trust issues with the House after some lawmakers rose to defend the ongoing signature drive.

She said the Senate “obediently drafted and signed Senate Resolution of Both Houses 6, with the clear understanding that efforts to collate signatures for a people’s initiative would be stopped. But it did not stop. It, in fact, continued.”

The senator promised to get to the bottom of the alleged bribing of voters at the meeting of the Senate electoral reforms committee on Tuesday.

Asked if the Speaker and other lawmakers are invited to the hearing, Marcos said they are welcome to join to clear their names. “I shall be open to all possibilities to get to the truth,” she said.

Her Senate colleague, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, said Romualdez’s proposal for the Senate to roll out its own people’s initiative is an insult, especially with the Speaker’s inclusion of the phrase “now acting as one body,” in his letter to the Senate President.

“Now acting as one body? What does that mean?” Villanueva said as he read the letter at a press briefing yesterday.

“I’m sorry, this is an insult… You don’t call it people’s initiative if we (senators) would initiate it. This is the very reason why we are so passionate and angered by this fake initiative,” he added.

“It’s disgusting and insulting. It’s like your husband cheated on you and then tell you to cheat on him too,” he said. “How would you feel?”

He said the letter sounded like the Senate was being held hostage, but he maintained the chamber would not allow it.

“History will bear me out, even the most powerful person on the face of the earth, the Senate will not allow itself to be held hostage,” he said.

Villanueva emphasized that he continues to receive complaints from individuals coerced into signing for the people’s initiative drive.

“Four mayors admitted to me that congressmen’s staff called and told them that they will conduct signature drive in their locality. But they (staff) did not say to the mayors that the drive was for PI,” he noted.

Villanueva said he is passionate about the matter. “The people more than anything should realize what’s going on. This is not the survival of the Senate. If the PI is not fake, and if it’s the true sentiment of the people, even if the Senate is dissolved, even if there is no election for life, it’s OK.” — Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva, Nillicent Bautista, Emmanuel Tupas

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with