DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Barangay officials in Davao City testified in a Senate inquiry here on Friday, February 2, that workers of the Davao-based Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) conducted the signature campaign for charter change through deceptive means such as promising cash-aid.
During a public inquiry by the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation at the Arcadia Event Center in Davao City, barangay officials said the PBA staff deceived their constituents that they were signing for either cash aid or money.
Rene Estorpe, the barangay chairman of Agdao Centro in Davao, presented a green envelope containing signature campaign papers and claimed these came from a PBA Party-list coordinator identified as Benzar Yap.
Estorpe alleged that Yap had promised to give P4,000 to every signatory in his village, and many residents now wanted to withdraw their signatures because they were clueless about the documents they signed.
Brgy 76-A Barangay Captain Robert Olan-olan said residents signed a form with a covered letterhead telling them that it is government aid and were also given claim stubs for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS).
The TUPAD is an aid program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), while the AICS is that of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
He claimed the forms and coupons were distributed by the former barangay captain, which had gathered 10,000 signatures.
A PBA party-list group coordinator from Barangay San Antonio admitted to the committee that she distributed coupons for government aid to lure people in her village to sign for the people’s initiative documents.
Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib presented his statement via Zoom claiming that several politicians were involved in encouraging employees of the City Hall and barangay officials to sign a form for application of TUPAD and AiCS.
The PBA party-list group is linked to the children of the late House speaker Prospero Nograles, while his daughter Margarita “Migs” Nograles is the current party-list representative.
Senator Imee Marcos, the Senate committee chairperson, said, “Ang signature gathering dito sa Davao at sa iba’t ibang lugar dito sa kapuluan, wala namang problema kung tama ang paglikom ng mahahalagang pirma ng sambayanan. Pero bakit may panlilinlang?”
(There’s no problem with the gathering of signatures in Davao and other parts of the country if the process is correct. But why is there deception?)
The Comelec has ordered a halt to the acceptance of signature campaign documents related to the people’s initiative while it reviews and improves existing rules and guidelines. The Comelec office in the Davao region stopped receiving the signatures on Monday, January 29.
Asked by Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Comelec-Davao Director Remlane Tambuang said residents who wish to withdraw their signatures can do so by executing affidavits.
Senator Marcos said the committee would continue with the investigation into the people’s initiative for charter change and look into the P55 million worth of television advertisements for the campaign.
She said senators would also look into the initiative’s sources of funds starting with the list of donors, and a certain Anthony Abad, the man identified to be behind the signature drive. (davaotoday.com)charter change, PBA-party-list, people's initiative