Evidence points to the Office of Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez as being behind the People’s Initiative (PI) to amend the Constitution.
So said the Speaker’s first cousin and the president’s sister, Sen. Imee Marcos.
The PI has caused a rift between the Senate and the House of Representative, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. caught in the middle.
Speaker Romualdez, meanwhile, took issue with Sen. Marcos over the weekend, daring her to prove her accusation.
The lady senator said the Speaker was behind the distribution of cash, “donating” as much as PHP20 million per district to bankroll the PI signature campaign.
At a press briefing, Marcos said: “Definitely, it was his office which offered PHP20 million per district. Definitely, it was his office where a number of staffers and attorneys are involved.”
Marcos said her sources in the House of Representatives told her of the “attenuated timeline” to complete the signature campaign by July 9 this year.
She was not the only senator who pointed to Romualdez as being behind the initiative. In a televised interview last week, Sen. Bato dela Rosa also said it was the “leadership” of the House which was behind the campaign.
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva lambasted the Speaker’s proposal for the upper chamber of the bicameral Congress to roll out its own PI as an insult.
He was particularly incensed by Romualdez stating that the House and Senate could “act as one body” in his written proposal to Senate President Miguel Zubiri.
A visibly emotional Villanueva said, “This is an insult. You don’t call it a 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 also said that he continues to receive complaints from individuals who say they were forced to sign the PI drive.
Villanueva said at least four mayors had told him that congressmen’s staff had told them that a signature drive would be held in their locality but did not state that it was for the PI.
It was Sen. Marcos, however, who had the harshest words for the Speaker.
She not only accused her cousin of “doublespeak” in dealing with the Senate as well as the President but Marcos also said Romualdez’s words were “confusing and incomprehensible.”
She was referring to the letter sent by the Speaker to the Senate President last week where the former promised to support the latter’s review of the Constitution and the possible changes to some of its economic provisions.
That letter also said that the House “would continue” to support alternative people’s initiative led by the Senate.
The entire 24-member Senate had already rejected the PI as well as the possibility of constitutional assembly, where the two houses of Congress vote as one, effectively diluting the power of the Senate.
Marcos continues to doubt her cousin’s sincerity, saying that the Speaker had already “defied the agreement with the Senate that was forged in the presence of the President” by backing the PI.
In separate meetings with the House and Senate leadership, the President had sought to end the impasse between the two houses of Congress. Sen. Marcos, however, said that the Speaker was not following the agreement forged by the president.
Of Romualdez, she said, “it is useless talking to a person who is not true to his word.”
Although she had previously served three terms in the House, Marcos said she now had serious trust issues with lawmakers of the lower house. The PI is one of three ways to amend the 1987 Constitution, with the other two being a constitutional convention (con con) or constitutional assembly (con ass).