PIRMA confirms coordinating with Romualdez for People's Initiative signatures

PIRMA confirms coordinating with Romualdez for People's Initiative signatures
House Speaker Martin Romualdez on July 24, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The head of the People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (PIRMA) admitted to coordinating with House Speaker Martin Romualdez and other House lawmakers in gathering 3% of voters’ signatures per legislative district for the People’s Initiative (PI) campaign.

During the Senate’s probe on the PI campaign on Tuesday, Noel Oñate, lead convenor of the group behind the “EDSA-pwera” ad, confirmed that his group met with House lawmakers for “help” in the signature drive to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Oñate made the admission in response to Sen. Imee Marcos, who flashed a screengrab of a text message containing a picture of him with Romualdez and other House lawmakers. The text message also contained the words “‘People’s Initiative for Charter Change Staff Meeting’ dated January 8, 2024.’”

Marcos asked if Romualdez is “supporting … and all out behind the PI.” 

“Yes, we coordinate with the Speaker and the congressmen in getting 3% signatures per congressional district. That’s correct,” Oñate said.


Screengrab from the livestream of the Senate hearing on the People’s Initiative campaign, January 30, 2024.

Oñate initially said that he only met with House constitutional amendments chair Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Alfredo Garbin, a former House lawmaker.

Marcos chided Oñate for skipping mentioning Romualdez, to which he said: “It slipped my mind.”

The pro-Cha-cha advocate then said that he requested the meeting and that it was held in Romualdez’s residence.

In a statement later that day, Romualdez said that PI representatives asked to meet with him. 

“This encounter, held at my townhouse, was in the spirit of open dialogue and understanding of civic actions spearheaded by our citizens,” the House speaker added.

Romualdez said: “My role, as misinterpreted by some, is not as an orchestrator but as a facilitator for healthy democratic processes.”

Marcos previously accused the House leader of orchestrating the PI campaign and offering a P20 million reward for districts that will clinch signatures in support of the petition to amend the Charter.

The petition being circulated specifically wants to change the Charter to allow Congress to vote on changes to the 1987 Constitution jointly — an arrangement that will give the House an upper hand as they outnumber the 24-member Senate. 

Romualdez said that his role in the PI campaign is “purely advisory and in no way extends to mobilizing or leading their signature campaign.”

“Furthermore,  I firmly deny any allegations of involvement in unlawful activities such as vote buying related to this or any other initiative,” Romualdez added.

House Senior Deputy Speaker Dong Gonzales said in a press conference on Tuesday that it is “normal” for people to take pictures with the House speaker.

“Lahat naman nakikipag meet kay Spaker. Lahat nakikipagpicture, ang daming humihingi ng tulong kay Speaker,” Gonzales said.

House Deputy Speaker Jay-jay Suarez added that people should “not take things out of context.”

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

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