Clueless on Cha-cha People���s Initiative

Clueless on Cha-cha People’s Initiative
Signatures exchanged for sardines, P20, Philhealth cards

By BULATLAT TEAM

Bulatlat provincial correspondents interviewed barangay (village) officials and residents who were clueless about issues related to changing the 1987 Constitution. Local officials, however, implemented the people’s initiative for charter change, fearful also that they may lose their jobs if they do not do what they were told. Residents, for their part, signed the petition in exchange for money and other goodies.

The government-endorsed people’s initiative for charter change has adopted creative, albeit deceptive, ways in gathering signatures. Bulatlat correspondents in different provinces interviewed barangay (village) officials who gathered the signatures and residents who signed the forms.

A number of barangay officials reported to be only following instructions from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Residents, on the other hand, said that they signed the people’s initiative even if they do not have sufficient knowledge of charter change. There were others, however, who claimed that they were deceived into signing.

In the interviews, residents identified the barangay officials as the ones spearheading the signature gathering for the proposed changes in the 1987 Constitution. Several officials said that they were ordered by the mayor or the DILG.

In exchange for their signatures, the residents were given sardines, P20 ($0.39, based on an exchange rate of P51.125 per US dollar) and even barangay financial aid.

Deceptions galore

In Barangay Mabini, Basey, Samar, a barangay councilor who requested anonymity reported that the president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) called for a meeting to distribute forms for the signature campaign. The barangay officials were merely told to gather signatures in support of changing the form of government.

Another barangay councilor, this time from Barangay Sta. Fe, Leyte, said that weeks before the nationwide barangay assembly on March 25, they were called to an assembly in Cebu. All transportation and hotel expenses were shouldered by the DILG. The forms for the signature campaign were reportedly distributed there.

In Barangay Zone 1 and 2, a nun said that her brother and sister were deceived into signing the forms. A barangay representative went from house to house in the early morning of March 25 to gather signatures. They were told that Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) cards will be given to them upon signing. After signing, they were told that it was actually for the purpose of changing the form of government.

Some residents of Zones 2 and 4 of the same municipality also shared that they were given P20 ($0.39) for signing the forms.

In Dulag, Leyte, all areas held barangay assemblies except Rizal village. During that activity, a DILG representative discussed the issue of charter change.

In Mt. Province, residents interviewed by Northern Dispatch complained that their signatures were also solicited without any explanation of its purpose.

“Basta sinabi nilang may meeting dahil utos daw ni mayor. May multa ang absent sa meeting kaya pumunta kami. Noong nasa meeting na kami, may ipinapapirma sa amin. Tungkol daw sa constitution yun. Hindi ko naman naiintindihan kaya di ako pumirma pero yung iba pumirma,” (They told us that there was a meeting called by the mayor. Then at the meeting, they made us sign forms. But I didn’t understand what it was all about so I did not sign but the others did.) said a female voter from Abarriongan, Sto. Nino, Cagayan.

“The signature campaign is a farce,” one of the residents said.

In Mt. Province, those who initiated the signature campaign were identified to be barangay officials and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), with support from the governor’s office. Residents of Cagayan Valley said that mayors of different towns called on all barangay officials to gather their respective residents.

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