Friday, March 31, 2006

INITIATIVE SIGNATURES INADMISSIBLE: Signatures Invalid Without Attaching the Proposed Amendments

31 March 2006

Not a single signature in the “people’s” initiative campaign led by Sec. Ronaldo Puno and barangay officials in a petition to revise the Constitution, may be admitted by the Comelec, due to, among others, the failure of the organizers to attach the particular provisions containing the proposed amendments. CODAL warns Comelec officials that verifying the signatures without the attached proposed amendments is not only a waste of public funds but a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Sec. 261 (e) of the Election Code and the Revised Penal Code making each DILG and Comelec officer liable for graft.

The forms being circulated by barangay officials for signature provide that the signatories approve the proposal to amend Article VI, Article VII and the Transitory Provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Article VI contains thirty-two (32) sections, Art. VII contains twenty-three (23) sections and Art. XVIII of the 1987 Constitution on Transitory Provisions contain twenty-seven (27) sections, making it almost impossible for the signatories to approve such massive revision of eighty-two (82) constitutional provisions, especially if they have not read the actual proposed changes.
The transitory provisions will most likely contain provisions allowing Pres. Gloria Arroyo to retain her powers and office until 2010 and lift term limits, thereby allowing her to be Prime Minister for the rest of her natural life. Considering that according to all surveys more than 51% of the people do not want her to stay in office, those campaigning for signatures may be guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation in collecting these signatures without explaining what the signatories are supporting. Sec. 261 (e) prohibits:

(e)Threats, ..use of fraudulent device or other forms of coercion. - Any person who, directly or indirectly, intimidates … or uses any fraudulent device or scheme to compel or induce the registration of any voter….or the participation in a campaign… or the casting of any vote or omission to vote, or any promise of such registration, campaign, vote, or omission therefrom.

People’s Initiative is Unconstitutional and Illegal

Section 2, Art.XVII of the 1987 Constitution which is used as a basis by supporters of the current people’s initiative, provides that “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative… The Congress shall provide for the implementation of this right.” This means that no people’s initiative may be valid absent a law passed by Congress. The Supreme Court has said so in Santiago vs. Comelec when it declared the ‘Pirma’ initiative unconstitutional due to the absence of a law sufficient to regulate people’s initiative. It has even ‘permanently enjoined’ the Comelec from entertaining any petition on people’s initiative without the passage of the said law. Since no law on people’s initiative has been passed until now, taking official
cognizance of an initiative petition is both unconstitutional and illegal.

Furthermore, the Constitution only allows a people’s initiative to amend, not to ‘revise’ the Constitution, since the power to revise is only given to a Constitutional Convention or a Constituent Assembly as mandated by Sec. 1, Art. XVII of the 1987 Constitution. The current people’s initiative to revise a total of eighty-two (82) Sections of the Constitution is therefore unconstitutional and its signatures invalid, particularly if the proposed 82 amendments are not included in the signature form of the petition.

Criminal and Administrative Liability

Public officials organizing the people’s initiative and Comelec election officers verifying the signatures of such, are criminally liable under Article 231 and Article 241 of the Revised Penal Code, for openly disobeying the orders of the Constitution and the Supreme Court:

Art. 231. Open disobedience. - Any judicial or executive officer who shall openly refuse to execute the judgment, decision or order of any superior authority made within the scope of the jurisdiction of the latter and issued with all the legal formalities, shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period, temporary special disqualification in its maximum period and a fine not

Art. 241. Usurpation of judicial functions. - The penalty of arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any officer of the executive branch of the Government who shall assume judicial powers or shall obstruct the execution of any order or decision rendered by any judge within his jurisdiction

Comelec and DILG personnel who allot public funds for the campaign or verification of the signatures therein are also guilty of misappropriating public funds under Art. 220 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that:

Art. 220. Illegal use of public funds or property. - Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property were appropriated by law or ordinance shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one-half to the total of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damage or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service. In either case, the offender shall also suffer the penalty of temporary special disqualification.

TRO in Provinces and Districts

CODAL calls on concerned lawyers throughout the country to file an action for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the peoples initiative within their respective cities or districts. Considering the constitutional requirement that a valid initiative must have the signatures of at least 3% of the voters in each district, a TRO in only one district will immediately destroy the current initiative. CODAL requests lawyers not to file a petition with the Supreme Court for the moment, but rather focus on local courts or at most with the Court of Appeals. Lastly, the current initiative must be stopped not only because it is unconstitutional but also because it does not benefit the interest nor stem from the will of the people. If only for this, we must ensure that this illegal, unconstitutional, anti-people and anti-Filipino scheme will fail.

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