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Lure of money

  • Witnesses tags party-list coordinator behind signature campaign for charter change


WITNESSES testified there was “signature buying” on the ground as people were lured into signing their signatures due to ayuda or financial assistance promised to them.

Centro San Juan-Agdao District barangay chair Rene Estorpe said their testimonies openly tagged Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list as the group behind the signature campaign in Davao, during the public hearing of the committee on electoral reform and people’s participation, in the city on Feb. 2.

He claimed to have confiscated documents from his staff who distributed the forms to his constituents without proper consultation with the barangay.

Estorpe said a certain Benzar Yap, who he identified as a trusted PBA Party-list political coordinator, handed the forms to his staff and instructed them to collect the signatures of 250 persons in exchange for P4,000. 

The barangay chair added after the forms were confiscated, residents flocked to his office to withdraw their signatures. He brought to the hearing a 30-page triplicated paper bundle of signed documents.

A witness claiming to be PBA barangay coordinator from Barangay San Antonio also tagged Yap as the one who gave her instructions. The witness was told that after the residents sign the forms, they will be handed out claim stubs for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), a  government aid through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Ang sinabi lang po sa akin, na once makapirma yung tao bigyan ko raw po ng ganito [claim stub]. First time ko marinig ‘yung AICS..that’s why sabi ko sa mga napag-utusan ko, sabihin na lang na assistance,” she said stressing she only did what she was told.

The witness however did not rule out there was no amount mentioned but was told only to keep the claim stub and wait for further notice. However, only one claim stub was given to every household.

Upon inquiries made by Senator Bato dela Rosa, one of the purok leaders testified she only signed the forms after hearing the ayuda without having any background on the People’s Initiative.

Three residents from Barangay Bunawan testified they received the same claim stub and were told to keep it. They added the order was one claim stub for every five persons.

Bucana barangay chair Robert Olan-olan also tagged the son of former barangay chair Rolando Trajera, who was a PBA Party-list barangay coordinator. He said about 10,000 signatures were collected.

When asked by Senator Christopher Bong Go about the process on signing, Onlan-olan said “Ganito ang sistema, while nagpapirma sila, tinakpan nila yung letter heading, at sinabihan lang sila Tupad at AICS.”

“We are aware that the Petition shall be filed with the Commission on Elections for the Proposal to amend Article XVII, Selection 1(1) of the 1987 constitution through People’s Initiative,” the heading reads, further stating that “the signature’s constitute our approval of the proposed constituttiona;l amendment and consents the filing of the petition” hereby  authorizing Atty. Anthony Abad et. al.

Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Hubahib attended the hearing through Zoom and said several people in Tagum City signed the same forms and provided claim stubs for AICS and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (Tupda), an aid program from the Department of Labor and Employment.

Senate probe continues

When asked if the committee will call the attention of PBA Party-list Rep. Margarita “Migs” Nograles, committee chair Senator Imee Marcos said the ongoing probe is not meant to ridicule any public official.

“After all, they are our peers and we are obliged to work with them, there is nothing I can do about witnesses who mentioned them time and again,” Marcos said in a sideline interview after the hearing.

Hindi naman natin pinupursigi ito upang pahiyain sila or pagtawanan sila or ituro sila kundi para malaman ang katotohanan at itigil na itong PI na klarong klaro naman andami ng nagsalita (Our aim is not to shame or mock them. We just want to ferret out the truth and stop this PI),” she said.

Marcos mentioned that former chief justice Hilario Davide and former commissioner Rrene Sarmiento have already affirmed their stand that PI is impossible as there is no rule stating its process.

She added that she is not against charter change, economic provisions, or the PI as long as it is rightfully done and not by fooling Filipino people and bribing them with monetary considerations.

Asked when this would be the last hearing, she said the committee is waiting for Atty. Abad among others, as he “seems to be pivotal” given his name is in every form. Abad had sent them an email saying he was currently overseas.

The official added that contrary to the call for a suspension, she is calling to abolish the movement. 

May mga tunay na problema ang Pilipino. Bakit tayo nakatutok sa ganitong klaseng hearing, na napakarami nating problema (Filipinos have bigger problems on their hands. Why do we need to hold this type of public hearing? We already have too many problems), ” she stressed.

However, Marcos said the committee will continue the investigation and derive the minority leader’s “highly expensive” P55 million worth of TV advertisement for the campaign.


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