Palace Funded Cha-Cha Signature Drive: Pimentel

Mar. 26, 2006

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. today (March 26) debunked the administrations claim that it had nothing to do with the signature campaign for Charter Change and that it was not funding this activity.

Pimentel said he received information that the discussion on Charter Change during barangay assembly held nationwide on March 25 was the idea of Malacaang.

He said he learned from his informant that Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno met with select barangay and other local government officials a few days ago and instructed them to tackle proposed Charter amendments, during the barangay assembly particularly the adoption of a parliamentary system of government with a unicameral parliament.

However, he said the barangay officials were also told not to touch on the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the discussion.

On the Palaces claim that the barangays themselves are shouldering the cost of the assembly and signature campaign, Pimentel said he was informed by the person present at the meeting that P20 million was initially released for the signature campaign. It was the municipal development officers of the Department of Interior and Local Government who organized and coordinated the barangay assemblies.

In that meeting, the local government officials were told about the funds for the holding of the barangay assembly and the money had been released, Pimentel said.

Pimentel also took note of the one-page advertisements on Charter Change using the system of peoples initiative which appeared in several broadsheet and tabloid newspapers on March 24.

He said only the government is in a position to bankroll such an expensive promotional campaign on Charter Change.

Pimentel said he was not surprised anymore when barangay officials and workers, as well as residents, openly admitted that bribe money was being offered to those who will sign the petition calling for amendments to the Constitution.

He laughed off Punos statement that DILG officials and employees should not involve themselves in the peoples initiative for Charter Change and those caught in the bribery attempt must be arrested.

That is pure hypocrisy on the part of an official who does not deserve to be at the helm of the DILG, he said.

Pimentel reminded Puno that his attempt to dictate on the local government on what to do violates their autonomous character under the Local Government Code.

Maybe Puno does not know that the local governments are no longer under the control of the DILG Secretary. He is not in a position to order them to do this or that. One of the aims of the Local Government Code is precisely to remove the control of the DILG over the local governments, he said.

Pimentel, principal author of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160), said that the Code in fact calls for the phaseout of the DILG supervision over the local governments five years after the implementation of the Code. (PR)

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