Alexis Romero – The Philippine Star
February 7, 2024 | 12:00am
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda on July 3, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police will not intervene in the signature campaign seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution as long as it does not lead to violations of the law, according to PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., after former president Rodrigo Duterte called on security forces to “protect” the Charter.
For Acorda, there is nothing illegal about the people’s initiative (PI), noting that it is one of three ways to amend the Constitution.
“As long as there is no coercion, bribery or anything that is tantamount to violation of the law or to the intent of the Constitution, the PNP cannot come in,” he said at a press briefing at Malacañang yesterday.
“As long as there is no evident culpable offense committed, the PNP cannot come in as part of upholding the rule of law and, of course, protecting the Constitution,” he added.
Late last month, Duterte assailed the PI signature campaign, saying it seeks to remove term limits to keep politicians’ grip on power.
He claimed that President Marcos’ cousin Speaker Martin Romualdez and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos were behind the campaign, which he said is “swindling” the people.
Duterte, who advocated for federalism when he was president, said the military should arrest those who are pushing for the PI for allegedly wasting public funds and engaging in bribery.
The former president also urged the police and the military to defend the Constitution, stop the PI and “correct” the supposed wrongdoings of those who are behind the campaign.
He warned Marcos that he might be ousted like his late father and namesake if his administration pushes for Charter change.
While allegations of bribery can be interpreted as violations of the law, Acorda said the PNP needs evidence, sworn statements and other proofs that would support them.
“We cannot (intervene if nothing is proven). It’s just (an) exercise of the rights of the people under the Constitution,” the PNP chief added.
In an interview in Vietnam last Jan. 30, Marcos said that he was consulting with legal experts in his administration on the best way to amend the Constitution.
PI in Valenzuela
Meanwhile, Valenzuela City Mayor Wes Gatchalian addressed the ongoing signature campaign for a PI for Charter change in the city.
In an interview over radio station dzRH yesterday, Gatchalian disclosed that since the PI’s inception, no submissions have been made to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from Valenzuela.
“Ever since the signing of the people’s initiative started, nothing has been submitted to the Comelec Valenzuela,” he said.
The local chief executive expressed uncertainty about the validity of the campaign, citing reports of party-list groups circulating in the city and allegedly enticing residents to sign documents in exchange for assistance.
Gatchalian, however, clarified that no significant accumulation of signatures has occurred, and there have been no reports from the Comelec regarding submissions.
“Actually, this is not confirmed, but what I heard is that party-lists are entering our city and encouraging residents to sign documents in exchange for aid,” he said.
Gatchalian mentioned that while various party-list groups are reportedly involved, none of them have met the required district-specific criteria for submission. — Mark Ernest Villeza