FIELD PHOTO: People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (Pirma) national convener Noel Oñate speaks to the media at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum in Malate, Manila on Wednesday, January 24, 2024. Oñate told senators during a Senate committee hearing on electoral and popular participation on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, that the donors of the P55 million “Edsa-pwera” ad chose to “invoke their right to privacy” and refused to reveal their identities. Leagogo

MANILA, Philippines – The donors of the P55 million “Edsa-pwera” ad chose to “invoke their right to privacy” and refused to reveal their identities, the lead organizer of the People's Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (Pirma) said. , Noel Oñate, on Tuesday.

During a Senate committee hearing on voter and popular participation, Oñate said donors asked to remain anonymous while senators followed up on their earlier directive for Pirma to submit the list of ad contributors.

“I have every intention of doing what I said. I think I already told you that we will present the list of our donors. But I obeyed what Senator Chiz Escudero mentioned here, that 'you might want to consult your collaborators' – which I did. I consulted them in the last few days and they did not want to reveal their names. They didn’t want their names revealed,” he said.

READ: Pirma told to send 'donation list' for P55 million 'Edsa-pwera' ad

“The reason they gave me is that they are concerned about their privacy, they are concerned about their security,” he added.

It was Oñate who previously disclosed the amount spent on the “Edsa-pwera” advertisement. He also said that half of the amount came out of his pocket.

Senator Imee Marcos, however, blocked Oñate's comment. Marcos presided over the hearing as president of the commission.

“There is no question of security or privacy. I think it is a matter of pride, as a committed citizen, that you are defending a constitutional change as Senator Chiz Escudero said. It must be an activity that you are proud and honored of”, said Marcos.

To which Oñate responded: “Maybe they thought about it and maybe they considered it more important that your safety, your privacy and your family are superior to your concern for people's initiative.”

Later in the hearing, Pirma's legal advisor, Atty. Alex Avisado, said that Oñate was forced to return part of the contributions.

“Regarding the submission of the names of the collaborators, he did seek the consent of his collaborators, but unfortunately they refused to allow him to disclose their names. That’s why Mr. Oñate couldn’t continue, because what really happened was that he was forced to return his contributions,” Avisado said.

Avisado added that they attached withdrawal receipts in their compliment that prove that Oñate withdrew substantial amounts and returned the contributions of some of his friends.

Marcos clarified and asked if her understanding of the matter was correct – which Oñate withdrew part of the donations and paid for.

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“Yes, that’s why I did it,” Oñate said.