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‘Not fake news’: PDI stands by its story on ‘cha-cha’

/ 06:46 PM May 18, 2020

The Philippine Daily Inquirer stands by its story: ‘Cha-cha drive alive amid pandemic.’

There was nothing fake in it, contrary to a statement earlier today by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

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On Friday morning, the Inquirer obtained copies of two memorandums from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), both signed and issued by Jonathan Malaya, the undersecretary for plans, public affairs, and communications. He is also the spokesperson for the department.

The first memo was dated Jan. 28, 2020 and addressed to all DILG regional directors with the subject: signature campaign in support of constitutional reform (CORE). In the memo, Malaya noted that the DILG had gathered 22,000 signatures in 2019 in support of CORE during the Balangayan CORE roadshows in 62 provinces that year. He asked the regional directors to submit the signatures to the Center for Federalism and Constitutional Reform (CFCR) to be “included in the documents for presentation and submission to both houses of Congress in order to inform them of the support we have gathered for CORE from the regions.”

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The memo added: “Furthermore, during the press launching of the CORE movement last January 20, 2020, we announced the gathering of some 1 million signatures in support of our advocacy. Hence, we are requesting each regional office to gather at least 30,000 signatures in their respective areas through our field offices in the LGUs and accredited civil society organizations in order to meet out (sic) target as more people and local officials come and support the CORE movement.”

The second memo dated March 27, 2020 was addressed to all DILG regional directors with the subject: extension on the submission of first set of 30,000 signatures and additional 100,000 for the CORE movement signature campaign. It said that due to the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to address the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and “in compliance with the honorable secretary Eduardo M. Año’s advisory on the postponement of activities in central and regional offices,” the March 31 deadline for gathering and submission of the first set of 30,000 signatures of each region was extended to April 30. The signatures were supposed to be scanned and sent by email “for proper compilation, counting, and validation purposes.”

“Meanwhile,” the memo said, “in order to have considerable number of 2 million signatures to be submitted to Congress in June, may we request each region to submit minimum number of 100,000 signatures.” The memo even provided a breakdown of “the target signatures to be acquired based on the number of voters per region.

The memo concluded: “Furthermore, all regions shall submit such signatures on or before May 29, 2020. Your prompt action on the said request will be greatly appreciated. For strict compliance. Thank you.”

That same Friday the Inquirer immediately confirmed the authenticity of the memos and got in touch by phone with Malaya who validated the issuances but said that they have been superseded because all DILG projects, programs and activities not related to COVID-19 have been placed on the “back burner.”

The DILG official then sent the Inquirer a copy of his latest memorandum pertaining to the CORE signature campaign through Viber. That memo, date May 11, 2020, was addressed to all regional directors and CFCR-accredited civil society organizations. It called the attention of regional project management teams and had the subject: use of CORE website for online signature campaign.

It stated: “Following the recommendation of the interagency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases, the extension of the nationwide ECQ and general community quarantine to selected areas was approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. As to this juncture, the physical conduct of CORE signature campaign shall be postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“In this regard, we would like to encourage all the regions and civil society organizations to utilize our CORE website for the online signature campaign. The use of this accessible and reliable online platform will eventually help in promoting the campaign as well as gather signatures with more people at home,” it said.

The memorandum said these online signatures “will also add up to the number of collected signatures of the regions and civil society organizations, completing the target of 2 million signatures in July.”

While the March 27 memo said the submission of the signatures was to be in June, the May 11 memo said it would be in July, two months from now. Malaya did not send an attachment to the memo supposedly detailing a “step-by-step guide on how to utilize and promote the said online signature campaign.”

On Saturday Inquirer sought further clarification with the DILG undersecretary on why the signature campaign for CORE is still continuing when he said in the phone conversation the previous day that it, along with other non-COVID related DILG projects and programs, had been placed on the “back burner.”

Malaya responded by text message: “Yes because what will our staff do if we don’t proceed with our PPAs (programs, projects and activities) at least online? Meaning our principal priority is COVID and all other projects are on the back burner, meaning they’re second priority now but will still continue subject to limitations imposed by our current situation. So lahat muna online ang activities.”

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For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Charter change, constitutional reforms (CORE), coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DILG
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