House leaders to snub Senate probe on People’s Initiative 

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
House leaders to snub Senate probe on People�s Initiative 
This photo shows the House of Representatives.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — House Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe on Monday turned down the Senate’s invitation for House lawmakers to attend its committee hearing on the alleged vote-buying practices of those behind the People’s Initiative (PI) campaign, saying that one senator is out to implicate House members.

“While we appreciate Senator Marcos' open invitation to the Senate probe, it seems we in the House have our hands full crafting legislation aimed at enhancing the lives of our fellow Filipinos,” Dalipe said in a press conference.

“Perhaps while we focus on building bridges, others seem more inclined to hunt for witches,” the House majority leader added.

This comes after Sen. Imee Marcos — the president’s sister — extended an open invitation for House members to attend the Senate probe, saying that the inquiry would be an opportunity for them to "defend" themselves.

While House Speaker Martin Romualdez has repeatedly distanced himself from the ongoing PI campaign to change the 1987 Constitution, Marcos said last week that the House leader “definitely” orchestrated the campaign and offered a P20 million reward for each legislative district that clinches enough signatures. 

In response, the House leader said in a press conference that Marcos got her information through gossip (“Nagma-marites siguro”) and challenged the senator to prove her claim to “whatever court.”

Marcos earlier filed a Senate resolution seeking a probe into allegations of “signature buying” and misrepresentation in the PI campaign, which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) suspended on Monday. 

On Monday, Dalipe confirmed that House members will not be attending the hearing of the Senate committe on electoral reforms and people’s participation, which Marcos will preside on Tuesday.

“But rest assured, should our legislative schedule allow, we'd be more than willing to engage in fruitful discussions, preferably ones that construct, not deconstruct, our collective efforts for national progress,” Dalipe added.

The petition being circulated for the PI campaign seeks to allow Congress to convene in a constitutional assembly and vote jointly on changes to the Charter, giving the House of Representatives an advantage as they outnumber the 24-member Senate.

The PI campaign has been widely criticized by opposition lawmakers in the upper and lower chambers who have raised concerns over its legitimacy, purpose and timing. The speed in which hundreds of signatures have been turned over to the Comelec for verification, said Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers), betrays its "fake" and coordinated character.

In the lower chamber, the Makabayan bloc has called for a similar probe on the PI signature drive after lawmakers received reports that people are being enticed to sign the petition in exchange for government aid.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters held a prayer rally in Davao City on Sunday to oppose all ongoing attempts to change the Charter. Marcos was present during the event.

House ‘welcomes’ Comelec suspension 

Comelec Chairperson George Garcia on Monday said the poll body was halting all activities related to the PI “until we are able to review, enhance, and add something to our existing rules," referring to Comelec Resolution 10650, or the revised rules and regulations governing the conduct of initiative related to the Constitution.

Dalipe and other House leaders said that they “welcome” the Comelec’s decision.

In particular, House Senior Deputy Speaker Dong Gonzales said that with the suspension of the PI, senators “will no longer have anything to say” and would clear the way for the passage of the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH 6).

The Senate's RBH 6 seeks to limit amendments to the Charter to specific economic provisions related to foreign ownership.

After the Senate unanimously opposed the PI campaign, Romualdez reached out to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to express the lower chamber’s support for RBH 6 and an alternative Senate-led PI.

RELATED: Amid House-Senate rift, Romualdez seeks common ground on Cha-cha with Zubiri  

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