Wednesday, August 30, 2006

COMELEC DELIBERATION ON LAMBINO PETITION MUST BE PUBLIC: Oppositors must be Allowed to Prove Allegations of Fraud

CODAL calls on the Commission on Election to dismiss the Lambino Petition because of a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the Comelec from entertaining such petition. The Commission cannot, and should not, confirm the authenticity of the supposed millions of signatures as this is tantamount to taking cognizance of the petition, a violation of the Supreme Court injunction. Should the Comelec persist to include in its decision a certification that the signatures are authentic and Sigaw has fulfilled the 12%-3% requirements, CODAL demands that the Comelec allow Oppositors to present evidence of fraud in the signature gathering process. CODAL further urges the Comelec to make all its deliberations on the Petition public to ensure transparency in the process considering that the Comelec is perceived to favor charter change proponents.

Chairman Benjamin Abalos and Sigaw have been asking Oppositors to go to the Supreme Court to question the initiative. Since no one went to the Supreme Court, CODAL believes that SIGAW’s gameplan is to have its petition dismissed by the COMELEC so it can immediately go to the Supreme Court expecting a favorable decision. Comelec’s dismissal of the Petition is actually expected since this is the fastest means to have the Santiago ruling reversed.

SIGAW Admissions in its Petition: Fatal to People’s Initiative

CODAL raised new grounds when it filed its opposition yesterday, notably:

I. The Petition should have been filed by the Signatories as Petitioners. Since only Atty. Raul Lambino and Erico Aumentado signed as Petitioners, the Petition is fatally defective and should be dismissed. The 1987 Constitution states in Art. XVII, Sec. 2 that:

Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be DIRECTLY proposed by the people through initiative, UPON A PETITION OF AT LEAST TWELVE PER CENTUM OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. (underscoring supplied)

Clearly, what should have been filed is a Petition of the signatories representing 12% of the registered voters. SIGAW should have drafted the Petition months ago and asked the registered voters to sign it as Petitioners.

Since only two people signed the petition it does not fulfill this constitutional requirement. Also fatal to the Lambino Petition is his admission that the registered voters “affixed their signatures to the signature sheets” rather than the Petition itself. It is in fact impossible for the registered voters to have affixed their signature to the Petition since, as Atty. Lambino further admitted, the Petition is dated August 25, 2006 and is therefore deemed as having been only drafted on that date. There is no way, therefore, for the signatories to have seen the petition when they supposedly signed months ago.

What Sigaw actually did the past few months was circulate Signature Sheets without showing to the voter-signatories the actual petition, which makes all the supposed millions of signatures void and completely useless. Even presuming that Sigaw attached to the Signature Sheets the draft Petition found in its website, the signatures are still void since the Petition they filed is no longer the same to their draft. Atty. Lambino deleted from the Petition he filed, Par. C, Sec. 4 (3) of its draft petition declaring that “ Senators whose terms of office ends in 2010 shall be members of Parliament until noon of the thirtieth day of June 2010”. Since the current petition is no longer exactly the same as the draft shown to the signatory during the signature drive, all the signatures are null and invalid.

Party-List System Abandoned

CODAL takes exception to claims that the Party-List system is intact under the proposed Constitution, since Atty. Lambino’s proposed amendment of Art. VI, Sec 2 states that:

“Section 1. (1) The legislative and executive power shall be vested in a unicameral Parliament which shall be composed of as many members as may be provided by law, to be apportioned among the provinces, representative districts, and cities in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, with at least three hundred thousand inhabitants per district, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. Each district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory, and each province must have at least one member.

This new Parliament will be composed of representatives from districts, provinces and cities depending on the number of inhabitants and not from sectors or party list groups. Unlike the 1987 Constitution which expressly provides that Congress shall be composed of district representatives and the party list, this proposal has deleted that express provision. At most, the party list system may only be provided by law, not by the Constitution, and therefore subject to the whims of politicians acting as parliamentarians.

Impossibility in Impeaching Pres. Arroyo

The Lambino proposal also increases from one-third to two-thirds the number of votes required to impeach the President, as shown in its proposed Transitory Provision: Section 1. (1) The incumbent President and Vice-President shall serve until the expiration of their term at noon on the thirtieth day of June 2010 and shall continue to exercise their powers under the 1987 Constitution unless impeached by a vote of two thirds of all the members of the interim parliament.

Considering that the Opposition failed to even muster the 1/3 votes in the recent impeachment proceeding, raising the threshold to 2/3 virtually protects Pres. Arroyo from any impeachment until 2010.

Public Hearing

CODAL reiterates its call for the COMELEC to hold its deliberation on the Lambino petition in public to ensure transparency if only to disabuse the public perception that it favors charter change. Holding its deliberations in secret will only enflame the issue further and cause further instability.

Reference Person Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares

Date August 30, 2006


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