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Donors’ list would have been smoking gun linking Romualdez and/or Marcos to Pirma

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THE list of those who donated the first P55 million tranche for the advertising campaign that would have been the cover for the plot to stage a fake “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution could have been the proverbial smoking gun.

Sibling, cousin squabble.

The list could have indubitably revealed that House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez or even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself were behind it.

But don’t hold your breath that such an explosive revelation will be made: the investigations on this plot has been suspended, and there could be a real possibility that, as happens in this country, in dinners in Forbes Park mansions attended by protagonists’ mutual friends as mediators, deals will be made to bury the hatchet, and they’ll just move on.

Only Pirma (People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action) convener Noel Oñate had claimed in the Senate investigation of the plot that he had put up half of the P55 million for the first eight days of the advertising campaign, which would have cost a total of P211 million for running the ads for eight weeks as originally planned. Oñate had adamantly refused to reveal who his co-funders were, claiming they were worried over their security and privacy if he did so.

In the third Senate hearing, in what is obviously a maneuver to avoid naming his co-funders, Oñate claimed they had withdrawn their funding, and he had returned their money. This was done on February 8, however, after the Senate hearings had started to unravel the conspiracy. They’re hoping that in this absurd maneuver, they can claim that since they withdrew their funding for this plot, the Senate has no right to demand that they be identified.

“If they had been identified, it would have been obvious that these magnates who were willing to part with their money quickly with little discussion were close to Speaker Martin Romualdez, or Marcos himself,” sources close to Oñate and the Senate investigation claimed.

“They even rushed the operation, as the plan was to get the required number of signatures [on] January 14, and the plebiscite undertaken to ratify the amendment before Congress resumed its session on January 21, so the Senate would be presented with a fait accompli.”

Fake

The fake people’s initiative involved revising the Constitution’s Article XVII Section 1 on the process for proposing an amendment to read: “The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of its members, voting jointly, at the call of Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives… (proposed amendment in italics).

This would have allowed the 315-member House of Representatives to totally pass any amendment they want on the Constitution, since the Senate has only 24 members and would have only at most 7 percent of the votes if the two Houses vote jointly. Currently, proposals to amend the Constitution require the Lower House and the Senate to vote separately. This is in keeping with the vastly different constituents and nature of each chamber: the House members are mainly voted on relatively small district level while senators are voted on a national level. The other amendment would have also allowed the House speaker or the Senate president — and not necessarily both — to call for the organization of a constitutional convention.

It is not clear though whether it was Romualdez who asked Pirma, which had been inactive since 1998, to undertake the operation for a substantial fee or whether it was Pirma’s head Oñate who did so.

In the three Senate hearings so far, chaired by Marcos’ elder sister, Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos — who was the most diligent in investigating the plot — Pirma convenor Oñate with his conspirators admitted to have met with Speaker Romualdez at the eve of the campaign’s launching. Testimonies identified both district-level and party-list congressmen as leading the campaign to get the signatures.

Ayuda

The signatories’ willingness to sign the petition was bolstered by these Prima operatives’ claims that they will be given “financial assistance” (called ayuda) from the following programs under the 2024 budget:

– The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s P60-billion “Ayuda sa Kapos sa Kita” program, which allocates a one-time P5,000 financial assistance to “near poor” workers, and its P34-billion Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations fund that gives out from P2,000 to as much as P10,000 to “qualified” beneficiaries;

– The Labor department’s P13-billion Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers that gives out in a cash-for-work scheme a maximum of P10,000 for each beneficiary; and

– The Department of Health’s P10-billion Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients program that gives out as much as P10,000 to indigent patients for the purchase of needed medicines and other medical costs.

Representatives from the Social Welfare and Labor departments, however, claimed that the guidelines for these programs have not even been issued yet, much fewer funds from these released. Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, however, at the Senate hearing on Monday presented copies of “stubs or coupons,” which a signatory would present to the relevant department to claim the benefits, for his signing the petition.

Fooled

This raises the possibility that Pirma operators simply fooled people to sign the petition to amend the Constitution to pave for the Senate’s abolition and the likely emergence of Speaker Romualdez as head of government in a unicameral Congress consisting solely of district and party-list representatives. Romualdez so far has not responded to the Senate investigation’s charges. Instead, various congressmen responded by claiming that the Senate is violating interparliamentary courtesy by dragging the House of Representatives into the controversy, and even claiming that its leader Romualdez was behind the plot to amend the Constitution in an underhanded, sneaky plot.

After the four Senate hearings, one is left with the bugging question: If it was Romualdez who was behind this plot, how could he have thought he could pull off such an operation that would strike at the heart of the Constitution in order for him to succeed Marcos?

Video grab from new Pirma advertising ad.

If he had put some thought to his plot, he would have known that there have been four such failed attempts, with the same goal of holding on to power, by past presidents — with Fidel Ramos nearly succeeding if not for President Cory Aquino’s vociferous opposition to it.

How could he have thought that such an obscure personality as Oñate — who was with Ramos’ failed Pirma plot and who describes himself as an “enigmatic” businessman as well as a “30-year “political operator” — and his amateurish obscure accomplices could convince the nation that the Pirma plot was an authentic “people’s initiative” that is permitted under the Constitution? Can you believe that only Oñate and Anthony Abad — who insists he was only an adviser even if he is the sole person authorized by Pirma to represent the fictitious signatories — are the only real people that have emerged to claim they are leading the “people’s initiative?”

It is astonishing that they thought they could fool the nation that they got 8 million Filipinos in six weeks to sign a petition supporting the move to amend the Constitution for Congress to vote jointly, a complex concept requiring much explanation.

Hubris

The only reason I can think of that they thought they could pull off this conspiracy is encapsulated in one word: hubris. They are convinced that they have managed to control in the past 18 months most of the political and the economic elite, as well as most of the media. They have also been confident that whatever they do, it has the US’ “ironclad” backing (the term American officials love to use) since it has authorized the American military to set up forward-bases all over the country, a crucial factor in the superpower’s plan to encircle China.

What they didn’t expect was that the club called the Senate has come out fighting, and not one senator has broken ranks to support the conspiracy. Why shouldn’t they? The conspirators didn’t even consult with a single senator about its plot to abolish the Senate.

This is no longer about Pirma. This is about a clan in power plotting to perpetuate its rule beyond that given it by the people in the 2022 elections, most probably even using government funds.

Senator Imee, Marcos’ elder sister and Romualdez’s cousin, has led the charge to deliver a body blow to the administration’s political hegemony. How ironic can that be?

The idea will filter down to the masses: If his elder sister, his Manang or Ate, the second living person after their mother who really knows Marcos — is so much against him, there must be something really wrong with him.

Fruit

Filipinos are simplistically minded, and they’ll invoke that old saying, “The fruit does not fall far from the tree.” Less than six months after he started his dictatorship in September 1972, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. maneuvered — using the threat of incarceration — to draft a new Constitution in January 1973, that was to his liking, which legalized his strongman rule and allowed him to be dictator for as long as he wanted. A fake plebiscite to ratify it was held, with Filipinos purportedly approving the Constitution by a show of hands. Bongbong Marcos is mindlessly mimicking his father, forgetting that what his father did was pulled off by the iron gloves of martial law.

Add the brutal accusation by his former ally, who remains loved by the masses, that he was and continues to be a cocaine addict, we may be seeing the beginning of the fall of the second House of Marcos — unless the king sacrifices his knight, in this case, Speaker Romualdez.

Postscript

Pirma is undaunted despite the revelations that it is undertaking a fake “people’s initiative.” Its head, Oñate, said the other day in a radio interview: “Nobody can stop the people’s initiative as this is part of the rights of every citizen. This cannot be stopped by the Comelec, by the Supreme Court, by the Senate or Congress as it is a fundamental right of the people if they want to continue the signature campaign.” Jeez. In fact, Pirma will very soon release a new advertising video in social media after its “EDSA-pwera” one that was widely condemned. The new video essentially claims that if the Constitution is not amended, Filipinos will continue to suffer high prices, bad roads, expensive food, etc.

Such videos really don’t work in convincing 8 million Filipinos, most of whom don’t have access to TV nor to the internet. These are merely to justify the claim that Filipinos actually signed the petition, as they were informed through the advertising ads.

For Oñate to be obdurate in pursuing this foolish project, he must know something we don’t.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dorina S. Rojas

    This issue is becoming worse by the day and we pray the Filipinos fight it legally. I voted for PBBM but what I did not know was he had relatives who wanted to rule this country forever even illegally. I was fooled maybe with millions of others more and this will be the last time I swear.

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