Battle of ‘initiatives’ set

Anti-pork, pro-PNoy groups in signature campaigns

TWO opposing people’s initiatives are facing off—one seeking a second term for President Benigno Aquino III and the other to hold him accountable for the corruption through pork barrel and his Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which the Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional.

Leaders of the pro-Aquino Movement for Reform, Continuity and Momentum (More2Come) announced over dzBB that they turn their drive to collect 8 million signatures into a people’s initiative to lift term limits and allow the President to seek re-election.

But leaders of the earlier people’s initiative to draft a law to bar all forms of pork barrel branded the pro-Aquino bid as a “Pnoy initiative” that was powered by pork, not people.

“Yes, we could say there are now two people’s initiative. The first one largely backed by the Church, multi-sectoral groups and unaligned individuals is a people’s initiative. The newly-formed group, whose signature drive tends to benefit only President Aquino is a Pnoy initiative. The first is people-powered, the other pork-powered,” former Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino told the Manila Standard.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. added that Palace operators were trying to muddle the really important issues by pushing for a so-called signature drive to convince Aquino to run again.

“The More2Come group is obviously a Palace-backed entity desperately trying to whip up support for Aquino in the face of various corruption scandals and a survey saying 62 percent of Filipinos oppose a second term for Aquino,” Reyes said.

“The signature campaign is utterly devoid of any legal basis since the law doesn’t provide a second term for the President. Unlike the People’s Initiative vs Pork, the second term aims to benefit one person, Aquino. What would be more beneficial for the people is for Aquino to be held accountable for his P144-billion DAP misdeeds,” said Reyes, whose group Bayan is a co-convener of the People’s Initiative Against Pork Barrel.

“Aquino thinks that his second term ploy will distract us from the issue of corruption accountability. He is terribly mistaken. Simply put, the PI vs Pork is beneficial to the entire people. The sign up for a second term is beneficial for only one person,” Reyes said.

More2Come convener lawyer Melvin Matibag said not a single centavo came from Malacanang and that they would reject any offer coming from the Palace.

He also called on the Palace men to refrain from providing funds “so as not to taint the democratic process,” Matibag said.

But Matibag admitted there were supporters of the President who contributed to the full-page ad that came out in a major national daily.

Matibag said he was not at liberty to disclose who these Aquino supporters were, however.

Matibag said the More2Come expects to gather 2 million signatures by Nov. 30 and hopes to present them to the President to get his nod to run for reelection in 2016.

He said once the signatures reached 4 million, the group would present them to Congress to convince them to convene themselves as a constituent assembly that would lift the term limits on the President.

Should Congress refuse, Matibag said, his group would proceed with the target of gathering the 8 million signatures to achieve the 3 percent per district or 15 percent of the voting population nationwide to prompt the Commission on Elections to conduct a plebiscite.

More2Come, he said, would tap the barangay officials nationwide to help gather the signatures.

When dzBB said this could be a violation of the law that bars barangay officials from partisan activities, Matibag said the signature campaign was not partisan, since it would benefit all presidents after Aquino as well.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice immediately distanced himself and the ruling Liberal Party from Matibag’s group, saying the party had nothing to do with the signature campaign to convince the President to run for President again in 2016.

Matibag said his group believes that through information and the signature drive, they could win over some of the 62 percent who opposed a second term for Aquino in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

“If that’s the case, it becomes 50-50 and the real battle begins because we believe that only through and under President Aquino can reforms be continued,” Matibag said.

But Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan dismissed the More2Come initiative.

“No need to stop them. They will self-destruct,” she said. “The real people’s initiative being done by the People’s Initiative Against Pork Barrel is moving.”

In the Palace, a presidential spokesman said Aquino is determined to finish his term and belittled the call by the multi-sectoral National Transformation Council for the President to resign, saying this was not the way the majority of Filipinos felt about the administration.

“The President is determined to continue serving the public and implement the reforms he has promised the citizenry,” Coloma said.

“And in our opinion, their (NTC) statement is only a part of the opinion of one sector. That does not mirror the opinion of majority of our citizens who continue to support the leadership of the President and who continue to trust in him,” he added.

The NTC, led by Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Batangas, and Bishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao City, said Aquino has lost the moral ascendancy to lead the nation.

“He [Aquino] has damaged the moral fabric of the society and has therefore lost the moral right to lead the nation. The Assembly calls upon the incumbent to relinquish his position now,” Vidal said.

The NTC said upon Aquino’s resignation, an alternative government must be organized consisting of men and women of integrity to assure the nation and the international community that there will be no political vacuum.

Vidal said Aquino had “subverted and violated” the Constitution by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system and perverting the constitutional impeachment process.

The Cebu declaration also called for the immediate filing of criminal cases against all senators and congressmen, members of the Cabinet and government agencies involved in the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

A day after the Cebu declaration, however, Vidal denied calling for Aquino’s resignation, saying he merely waned change. – With Junex Doronio

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