By Wilnard Bacelonia

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva (File photo) 

MANILA – The public must report all forms of abuse, bribery and all other illegal means to push for People’s Initiative (PI).

Senate Majority Joel Villanueva said in a statement Monday that a PI is legal but coercing signatories and other activities that take advantage of unsuspecting Filipinos are not.

Kung meron pong nagoyo, nabudol, gustong magreklamo at bawiin ang kanilang pirma, huwag po kayong matakot magsumbong. Magpadala o mag-post ng video, picture o screenshot ng mga text ng panunuhol (Whoever was scammed or wants to file a complaint and invalidate their signature, do not be afraid to report it. Post a video, picture or screenshot of texts with bribery attempts),” Villanueva said.

He also asked that reports include contact details so the Senate can provide them protection.

Importante po na ang tao ay mulat at nabibigyan ng tamang impormasyon. Hindi po pwede na bibigyan kayo ng ayuda o salapi para lamang pumirma (It is important that people are aware and being fed with right information. Giving you assistance or money in exchange for your signature in unacceptable),” Villanueva said.

The Constitution may not be perfect but he also underscored that charter change is not the solution to the problems of the country.

Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, has assured that the probe on PI bribe reports will push through.

Marcos filed Senate Resolution No. 902 seeking to investigate, in aid of legislation, the alleged payoffs and misrepresentations in the signature campaigns being conducted to push for PI.

Senator Sonny Angara, who will lead the subcommittee that will discuss the proposed constitutional amendments, said the resolution seeks to liberalize the public services, educational institution and advertising industries.

Tingin ko mas maganda ang tsansa ngayon dahil maaga pa sa termino ng ating Pangulo. Dahil kadalasan kapag nasa second half na ay ayaw na ng publiko sasabihin pampahaba lang ng termino. Eh ngayon na maaga pa klaro na ang usapin ay economic provision lang ng Saligang Batas at di ang usapin ng sistema ng gobyerno o termino (I think it has a better chance because it is still early in the term of the President. Because usually if it will be filed in the second half, the public will think that it is for term extension. Now, it’s earlier and clearer that only the economic provisions will be discussed and not the government system or term),” Angara said in a recent radio interview.

Be careful on Cha-cha comments

In a press briefing Monday, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. reminded officials of the agency to be circumspect in issuing statements on signature drives to amend the Constitution through People’s Initiative (PI).

This came in response to the remarks of Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Felicito Valmocina in a news forum in Quezon City on Saturday, where he cautioned barangay officials against any involvement in the signature campaigns and that barangay halls should not be used for these activities.

Abalos said Valmocina’s statement was his “personal opinion” and does not reflect the official position of the agency.

Valmocina, however, said the DILG is still in the process of seeking guidance from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regarding the precise rules that apply to the participation of local officials in this matter.

Meanwhile, Abalos hoped that incident serves as a warning to all the DILG officials to be responsible and at least consult their legal department before issuing any statements to avoid confusion. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)