‘Unethical, illegal’: Jinggoy slams P100 per signature campaign for Charter Change

(MANILA BULLETIN) Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada on Monday, January 8 slammed as “unethical” and “illegal” the reported attempts to railroad Charter change where local chief executives were supposedly asked to give P100 to every constituent who would sign a petition to amend a constitutional provision directing Congress to vote separately when amending the Constitution.

Estrada made the call after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman disclosed the modus saying mayors from his province were summoned to a meeting last January 5 and were given directives on how to have their constituents agree to the plan.

“It is unethical and illegal to solicit signatures of constituents to petition for Charter change moves in exchange for P100, in the guise of supposed people’s initiative,” Estrada said.

“This practice clearly violates our laws and undermines the democratic process,” he further said.

Estrada stressed the people’s initiative is a constitutional right that should be exercised freely and without coercion.

“Whoever is behind this sinister move to tinker with the 1987 Constitution should be investigated and prosecuted for engaging in such unlawful activity,” he said.

“The people’s trust in the democratic process must be protected and preserved,” Estrada emphasized.

In a statement, Lagman claimed that during the meeting, the mayors were informed that people’s initiative would be used as a mode of amending the Constitution.

“And they were given mobilization funds and the forms to be signed by at least three per centum of the registered voters of the legislative district to which their municipalities belong,” Lagman said.

According to Lagman, voters who would sign the petition for people’s initiative will be given P100 each, “50 percent of which has already been advanced to the municipal mayors and respective coordinators.”

“This movement is apparently nationwide as congressmen belonging to various political parties have been sent the necessary forms,” he said.

Lagman, however, did not identify who is behind the alleged campaign.

Lawmakers have long been divided on the issue of whether it is appropriate for the House of Representatives and the Senate to vote separately or together on constitutional amendments.

But voting together on constitutional amendments would mean the 24-member Senate would easily be outnumbered by their counterparts at the House.

Sen. Imee Marcos, President Marcos’ sister, also denounced this reported push for Charter change.

“Our Constitution is not for sale. We denounce those  allegedly bribing districts, LGUs (local governmen units) and potential signatories openly and shamelessly to agree to a people’s initiative,” Marcos said in a separate statement.