PIRMA head faces Senate contempt raps

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action or PIRMA must divulge to the Senate the names of donors who funded the television ad bashing EDSA people power or face criminal charges, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros warned yesterday.

In pushing for a people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution, PIRMA has funded a television ad that blamed the post-Edsa Charter for the country’s slow progress.

The ad coined the term “EDSA-pwera” – a reference to “etsapwera” or ignored – to send the message that the masses did not benefit from the gains of the 1986 uprising, which restored democracy in the country after the two-decade dictatorship of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Hontiveros bristled at PIRMA lead convenor Noel Oñate’s claim during the previous Senate electoral reforms hearing that donors wanted to keep their identities confidential.

Oñate claimed that he funded half of the P55-million ad out of his own pocket, while the other half came from contributors.

“If the donors to the TV ad are worried about their privacy or security, then the list could be submitted and examined in an executive session, as mentioned by committee chair Sen. Imee Marcos,” Hontiveros said.

“Oñate should respect the Senate subpoena compelling him to provide the documents, lest he wants to be liable for disobedience to summons punishable under Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code,” she asserted.

“Oñate should be reminded that to belittle and disobey the Senate is a violation of the law,” Hontiveros added.

For her part, Senator Marcos yesterday warned Oñate that he could be cited for contempt anytime if he continues defying the Senate probe on the signature buying that hounded the people’s initiative campaign.

“We are letting him be so that we can find out more about the events. The more he talks, the more he exposes himself. But the truth is, we are gritting our teeth at the things he is saying, for which he can be cited for contempt soon,” she added.

The President’s sister expressed frustration at Oñate’s refusal to provide the list of donors. “He is annoying. He is showing arrogance,” Marcos said in a phone interview with reporters.

The senator said she was considerate during the previous hearings despite Oñate’s obvious attempts to commit perjury in his defense of Speaker Martin Romualdez, whom Marcos accused of bankrolling the people’s initiative.

Marcos also noted that she had no choice but to pursue the Senate probe, as more names keep coming up.

“Honestly, it’s tiring. Isn’t it? Because five, six to seven hours of straight proceedings. It’s tiring. It’s hard to listen to them over and over again, it’s giving me a headache,” said Marcos.

PIRMA not bothered

PIRMA is not bothered by the Commission on Elections’ release of a withdrawal form for signatures collected for the people’s initiative petition pushing for Charter change.

“We are aware of the Comelec release of the Withdrawal of Signature forms. This does not affect us much,” Oñate said, noting that they have gathered more than enough signatures.

“Even if there is a withdrawal of 1 out of 10 (signatories), we still have about 17 percent, way above the 12 percent requirement. We have enough buffer,” he said.

Despite the indefinite suspension of the Comelec of all its PI-related processes, Oñate said their signature gathering campaign is continuous.

The Comelec earlier came out with the “Withdrawal Form of Signature in Signature Sheets/Petition for People’s Initiative” for those intending to take back their signatures.

Meanwhile, the Comelec said it will receive withdrawal forms submitted to them with or without any explanation indicated or attached.

Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said accomplished withdrawal forms may be submitted to the office of the election officers.

The poll body though, pointed out that the acceptance of withdrawal forms is for recording purposes only and shall not be construed as formal action on the signature sheets or petition for the people’s initiative. — Rhodina Villanueva, Sheila Crisostomo, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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