NOTE: THIS IS JUST A DRAFT TEMPLATE OF THE ACTION THAT MAY BE FILED BEFORE LOCAL RTCs. SHOULD ONE RTC NULLIFY OR PROHIIT THE VERIFICATION OF SIGNATURES IN ONE DISTRICT THE WHOLE INITIATIVE WILL COLLAPSE FOR FAILING TO GET THE 3% PER DISTRICT REQUIREMENT
Neri Colmenares (CODAL)
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT
FIRST JUDICIAL REGION
BRANCH __, BAGUIO CITY
COUNSELS FOR THE DEFENSE OF
LIBERTIES (CODAL), represented by
Atty. Batas Ambion etc.
THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE
represented by Atty. Jose Anselmo Cadiz
Juan de la Cruz (tax payers)
- versus - SCA No. ________________
For: Prohibition with prayer for
Temporary Restraining Order
and Writ of Injunction
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (Manila)
and SIGAW NG BAYAN,
x -------------------------------------------------------- x
PETITIONERS CODAL, OR INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES (BAGUIO OR MANILA), OR PEOPLES ORGANIZATION OR NGO, by counsel, respectfully state:
This is a petition for prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order and writ of injunction to stop respondent Commission on Elections from taking cognizance of, and disbursing public funds for, the alleged “people’s initiative” spearheaded by respondent Sigaw ng Bayan. The argument of this petition is that any such action is void for being contrary to law and public policy, that is, the Constitution and the ruling in Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997. It is therefore imperative for this Honorable Court as the bulwark of the rule of law to grant the instant petition – no ifs and no buts, only a stoppage to the Commission on Elections’ and the Sigaw ng Bayan’s illegitimate and illicit exercise of power and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
Petitioner Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) or Integrated Bar of the Philippine (Baguio- or Iloilo Chapter etc) is the official organization of Baguio-Benguet lawyers. It is represented in this petition by Atty._________ its current President, with due authority from its Board of Officers. CODAL has standing to bring this suit as it is a lawyers group whose main aim is to promote the respect for civil liberties and constitutional rights etc.
The IBP has standing to bring this suit since as the official lawyers’ organization, it is duty-bound than any other group to uphold and advance the rule of law in this country, and to stop any abusive exercise of public authority.
Petitioners Atty. JUSTICE HOLMES are bona fide members of the Bar and necessarily citizens and taxpayers of this country. They possess personal stakes in the outcome of the instant controversy so as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which this Honorable Court could decide the issued raised herein. As citizens, they are in imminent danger of sustaining some direct injury to their profession as lawyers since an illegal revision of the Constitution will require them to study again constitutional law at the expense of their practice in terms of money and lost time. Moreover, they have the sworn duty to protect and promote the rule of law and bring to the attention of the courts matters that are believed to be unconstitutional or violative of legal precepts. As taxpayers, they have standing to sue because public money would be deflected to an improper purpose, that is, the unlawful and immoral exercise of people’s initiative.
Petitioner JUANA DE LA CRUZ is a citizen and taxpayer of this country. As citizen, she is entitled to defend and advance the rule of law. As taxpayer, she has the right to question government action that misspends her contributions to State coffers. Finally, she is a registered voter from the time the Constitution was overwhelmingly ratified – in fact, he voted in favor of it – until today. She has the civic obligation and the claim to ensure that the Commission on Elections is duly empowered if and when she is asked to vote in any people’s initiative so as not to waste her time, energy and money in joining an otherwise useless task.
Petitioners are all residents of Baguio City or Manila or Iloilo. They may be sent summons, orders and other processes of this Honorable Court through their counsel of record, Atty. ________, CODAL Building, Suite 303, Session Road, Baguio City.
Respondent Commission on Elections is the government agency tasked by law to administer elections. It is also the body approached by respondent Sigaw ng Bayan seeking the verification of signatures it has allegedly gathered as part of the people’s initiative process, and submitting the same for further investigation and proceedings. It may be served summons, orders and other processes of this Honorable Court through the Office of the Regional Director, Commission on Elections, Wright Street, Baguio City.
Respondent Sigaw ng Bayan is a group of persons engaged in the illegal activity of initiating and pursuing a purported “people’s initiative” – actually, an initiative to perpetuate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cohorts in power. It has finished supposedly the gathering of signatures although without independent proof that this process has been fair, accurate and reliable. It may be served summons, orders and other processes of this Honorable Court through its representative, Flor Dawey at 36 Aurora Hill, Baguio City.
Respondent ULAP or mayor or governor or dilg?
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On March 28, 2006, Sigaw ng Bayan went around barangays in Baguio City collecting signatures on forms attached hereto as Annex “A.” Members of this organization were accompanied by barangay and city officials ostensibly upon authority of a memorandum from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. They walked from house to house, talked with housemates – without however explaining the contents of the documents on which signatures were affixed An affidavit to this effect is hereto attached as Annex “B.”
On April 29, 2006, Sigaw ng Bayan brought the collected signatures to the Commission on Elections allegedly as a “people’s initiative” seeking the authentication of the signatures it had gathered.
During the period of April 2 to 6 The Commission on Elections through its Chairman Benjamin Abalos has publicly stated through print and tv interviews that respondent Commission has the power to conduct verification despite the ruling in Santiago since the verification is not yet the petition. This statement was made despite the admission by Comelec, including its new member, BRAWNER, that respondent Commission has no recourse but to dismiss any initiative petition filed before it.
Comelec Commissioners have in fact sent instructions to its field offices throughout the country to verify signatures presented by Sigaw ng Bayan or local government officials (attached is a copy of the letter sent by Comm. Ressurreccion Borra to Comelec Offices in Western Visayas expressing his belief that ‘COMELEC is empowered to conduct verification”of the said signatures.
COMELEC officials of Manila (Iloilo etc) has confirmed the receipt of such instructions and that they have actually started the verification of the said signatures (or Comelec has confirmed that they intend to conduct verification of the said signatures). [Attached as Annex ___ a copy of the Certification of the Comelec (Manila, Iloilo or Baguio) NOTE: IF THE COMELEC WILL NOT ISSUE SAID CERTIFICATION, WE CAN VERBALLY INQUIRE AND SUBMIT A SWORN STATEMENT TO THAT EFFECT DEPENDING ON THE ANSWER OF THE COMELEC IN THE LOCALITY.
Hence, COMELEC is now using taxpayers’ money to execute an act that has no basis in law, essentially unfunded under the General Appropriations Act, and declared categorically as illegal in Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra. Unless restrained and permanently enjoined, the Commission on Elections will continue its unwarranted actions and waste more resources at the expense of other important and budgeted government expenditures.
1. There is no law authorizing a people’s initiative, as firmly ruled in Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra; thus, respondents are engaged in an illegal, and fraudulent process that violates the Constitutional requirement that “Congress shall provide for the exercise of this right”. This is the precedent which this Honorable Court is bound to respect and enforce.
2. COMELEC is misappropriating and wasting public funds in verifying signatures to a petition that they will ultimately dismissed, in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Revised Penal Code and other laws.
3. Presuming the validity of RA 6735, the process followed by respondent Sigaw ng Bayan is itself contrary to the provisions of RA 6735, the law erroneously cited by SIgaw ng Bayan as basis for its supposed “people’s initiative.”
There is no law authorizing a people’s initiative, as firmly ruled in Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra; thus, respondents are engaged in an illegal, immoral and fraudulent process. This is the precedent which this Honorable Court is bound to respect and enforce.
The foregoing argument is so easy to follow. It is the basis of every democratic State where rule of law is observed – the authority of precedents. The people’s initiative provision in the Constitution, that is, Art. XVII, Sec. 2, is not self-executory It requires an enabling statute to be effective: “The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.”
In Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra, the Supreme Court has found that there is no law implementing this constitutional provision specification. Hence, it cannot yet be invoked by anyone. The better procedure would have been to commence a people’s initiative to enact a statute complementing the Constitution. According to the Supreme Court, RA 6735, the law invoked by Sigaw ng Bayan, is insufficient and incomplete in that it does not dwell on even touch upon revision to the Constitution. Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra, ruled thus:
R.A. NO. 6735 INTENDED TO INCLUDE THE SYSTEM OF INITIATIVE ON AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION, BUT IS, UNFORTUNATELY, INADEQUATE TO COVER THAT SYSTEM.
Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution provides:
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. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.
The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.
This provision is not self-executory. In his book, Joaquin Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, stated:
Without implementing legislation Section 2 cannot operate. Thus, although this mode of amending the Constitution is a mode of amendment which bypasses congressional action, in the last analysis it still is dependent on congressional action.
Bluntly stated, the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of initiative would remain entombed in the cold niche of the Constitution until Congress provides for its implementation. Stated otherwise, while the Constitution has recognized or granted that right, the people cannot exercise it if Congress, for whatever reason, does not provide for its implementation.
This system of initiative was originally included in Section 1 of the draft Article on Amendment or Revision proposed by the Committee on Amendments and Transitory Provisions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission in its Committee Report No. 7 (Proposed Resolution No. 332). That section reads as follows:
SEC. 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed:
(a) by the National Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members; or
(b) by a constitutional convention; or
(c) directly by the people themselves thru initiative as provided for in Article _____ Section _____ of the Constitution. 31
After several interpellations, but before the period of amendments, the Committee submitted a new formulation of the concept of initiative which it denominated as Section 2; thus:
Thank you, Madam President. May we respectfully call attention of the Members of the Commission that pursuant to the mandate given to us last night, we submitted this afternoon a complete Committee Report No. 7 which embodies the proposed provision governing the matter of initiative. This is now covered by Section 2 of the complete committee report. With the permission of the Members, may I quote Section 2:
"The people may, after five years from the date of the last plebiscite held, directly propose amendments to this Constitution thru initiative upon petition of at least ten percent of the registered voters."
This completes the blanks appearing in the original Committee Report No. 7. 32
The interpellations on Section 2 showed that the details for carrying out Section 2 are left to the legislature. Thus:
Madam President, just two simple, clarificatory questions.
First, on Section 1 on the matter of initiative upon petition of at least 10 percent, there are no details in the provision on how to carry this out. Do we understand therefore that we are leaving this matter to the legislature?
That is right, Madam President.
And do we also understand, therefore, that for as long as the legislature does not pass the necessary implementing law on this, this will not operate?
That matter was also taken up during the committee hearing, especially with respect to the budget appropriations which would have to be legislated so that the plebiscite could be called. We deemed it best that this matter be left to the legislature. The Gentleman is right. In any event, as envisioned, no amendment through the power of initiative can be called until after five years from the date of the ratification of this Constitution. Therefore, the first amendment that could be proposed through the exercise of this initiative power would be after five years. It is reasonably expected that within that five-year period, the National Assembly can come up with the appropriate rules governing the exercise of this power.
Since the matter is left to the legislature — the details on how this is to be carried out — is it possible that, in effect, what will be presented to the people for ratification is the work of the legislature rather than of the people? Does this provision exclude that possibility?
No, it does not exclude that possibility because even the legislature itself as a body could propose that amendment, maybe individually or collectively, if it fails to muster the three-fourths vote in order to constitute itself as a constituent assembly and submit that proposal to the people for ratification through the process of an initiative.
xxx xxx xxx
Do I understand from the sponsor that the intention in the proposal is to vest constituent power in the people to amend the Constitution?
That is absolutely correct, Madam President.
I fully concur with the underlying precept of the proposal in terms of institutionalizing popular participation in the drafting of the Constitution or in the amendment thereof, but I would have a lot of difficulties in terms of accepting the draft of Section 2, as written. Would the sponsor agree with me that in the hierarchy of legal mandate, constituent power has primacy over all other legal mandates?
The Commissioner is right, Madam President.
And would the sponsor agree with me that in the hierarchy of legal values, the Constitution is source of all legal mandates and that therefore we require a great deal of circumspection in the drafting and in the amendments of the Constitution?
That proposition is nondebatable.
Such that in order to underscore the primacy of constituent power we have a separate article in the Constitution that would specifically cover the process and the modes of amending the Constitution?
That is right, Madam President.
Therefore, is the sponsor inclined, as the provisions are drafted now, to again concede to the legislature the process or the requirement of determining the mechanics of amending the Constitution by people's initiative?
The matter of implementing this could very well be placed in the hands of the National Assembly, not unless we can incorporate into this provision the mechanics that would adequately cover all the conceivable situations.
It was made clear during the interpellations that the aforementioned Section 2 is limited to proposals to AMEND — not to REVISE — the Constitution; thus:
. . . This proposal was suggested on the theory that this matter of initiative, which came about because of the extraordinary developments this year, has to be separated from the traditional modes of amending the Constitution as embodied in Section 1. The committee members felt that this system of initiative should not extend to the revision of the entire Constitution, so we removed it from the operation of Section 1 of the proposed Article on Amendment or Revision.
xxx xxx xxx
In which case, I am seriously bothered by providing this process of initiative as a separate section in the Article on Amendment. Would the sponsor be amenable to accepting an amendment in terms of realigning Section 2 as another subparagraph (c) of Section 1, instead of setting it up as another separate section as if it were a self-executing provision?
We would be amenable except that, as we clarified a while ago, this process of initiative is limited to the matter of amendment and should not expand into a revision which contemplates a total overhaul of the Constitution. That was the sense that was conveyed by the Committee.
In other words, the Committee was attempting to distinguish the coverage of modes (a) and (b) in Section 1 to include the process of revision; whereas the process of initiation to amend, which is given to the public, would only apply to amendments?
That is right. Those were the terms envisioned in the Committee. 35
Amendments to the proposed Section 2 were thereafter introduced by then Commissioner Hilario G. Davide, Jr., which the Committee accepted. Thus:
Thank you Madam President. I propose to substitute the entire Section 2 with the following:
xxx xxx xxx
Madam President, I have modified the proposed amendment after taking into account the modifications submitted by the sponsor himself and the honorable Commissioners Guingona, Monsod, Rama, Ople, de los Reyes and Romulo. The modified amendment in substitution of the proposed Section 2 will now read as follows:
"SEC. 2. — AMENDMENTS TO THIS CONSTITUTION MAY LIKEWISE BE DIRECTLY PROPOSED BY THE PEOPLE THROUGH INITIATIVE UPON A PETITION OF AT LEAST TWELVE PERCENT OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS, OF WHICH EVERY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT MUST BE REPRESENTED BY AT LEAST THREE PERCENT OF THE REGISTERED VOTERS THEREOF. NO AMENDMENT UNDER THIS SECTION SHALL BE AUTHORIZED WITHIN FIVE YEARS FOLLOWING THE RATIFICATION OF THIS CONSTITUTION NOR OFTENER THAN ONCE EVERY FIVE YEARS THEREAFTER.
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SHALL BY LAW PROVIDE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EXERCISE OF THIS RIGHT.
Madam President, considering that the proposed amendment is reflective of the sense contained in Section 2 of our completed Committee Report No. 7, we accept the proposed amendment.
The interpellations which ensued on the proposed modified amendment to Section 2 clearly showed that it was a legislative act which must implement the exercise of the right. Thus:
Under Commissioner Davide's amendment, is it possible for the legislature to set forth certain procedures to carry out the initiative . . .?
xxx xxx xxx
But the Commissioner's amendment does not prevent the legislature from asking another body to set the proposition in proper form.
The Commissioner is correct. In other words, the implementation of this particular right would be subject to legislation, provided the legislature cannot determine anymore the percentage of the requirement.
But the procedures, including the determination of the proper form for submission to the people, may be subject to legislation.
As long as it will not destroy the substantive right to initiate. In other words, none of the procedures to be proposed by the legislative body must diminish or impair the right conceded here.
In that provision of the Constitution can the procedures which I have discussed be legislated?
Commissioner Davide also reaffirmed that his modified amendment strictly confines initiative to AMENDMENTS to — NOT REVISION of — the Constitution. Thus:
With pleasure, Madam President.
My first question: Commissioner Davide's proposed amendment on line 1 refers to "amendment." Does it not cover the word "revision" as defined by Commissioner Padilla when he made the distinction between the words "amendments" and "revision"?
No, it does not, because "amendments" and "revision" should be covered by Section 1. So insofar as initiative is concerned, it can only relate to "amendments" not "revision."
Commissioner Davide further emphasized that the process of proposing amendments through initiative must be more rigorous and difficult than the initiative on legislation. Thus:
A distinction has to be made that under this proposal, what is involved is an amendment to the Constitution. To amend a Constitution would ordinarily require a proposal by the National Assembly by a vote of three-fourths; and to call a constitutional convention would require a higher number. Moreover, just to submit the issue of calling a constitutional convention, a majority of the National Assembly is required, the import being that the process of amendment must be made more rigorous and difficult than probably initiating an ordinary legislation or putting an end to a law proposed by the National Assembly by way of a referendum. I cannot agree to reducing the requirement approved by the Committee on the Legislative because it would require another voting by the Committee, and the voting as precisely based on a requirement of 10 percent. Perhaps, I might present such a proposal, by way of an amendment, when the Commission shall take up the Article on the Legislative or on the National Assembly on plenary sessions.
The Davide modified amendments to Section 2 were subjected to amendments, and the final version, which the Commission approved by a vote of 31 in favor and 3 against, reads as follows:
Thank you Madam President. Section 2, as amended, reads as follows: "AMENDMENT TO THIS CONSTITUTION MAY LIKEWISE BE DIRECTLY PROPOSED BY THE PEOPLE THROUGH INITIATIVE UPON A PETITION OF AT LEAST TWELVE PERCENT OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS, OF WHICH EVERY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT MUST BE REPRESENTED BY AT LEAST THREE PERCENT OF THE REGISTERED VOTERS THEREOF. NO AMENDMENT UNDER THIS SECTION SHALL BE AUTHORIZED WITHIN FIVE YEARS FOLLOWING THE RATIFICATION OF THIS CONSTITUTION NOR OFTENER THAN ONCE EVERY FIVE YEARS THEREAFTER.
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SHALL BY LAW PROVIDE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EXERCISE OF THIS RIGHT.
The entire proposed Article on Amendments or Revisions was approved on second reading on 9 July 1986. 41 Thereafter, upon his motion for reconsideration, Commissioner Gascon was allowed to introduce an amendment to Section 2 which, nevertheless, was withdrawn. In view thereof, the Article was again approved on Second and Third Readings on 1 August 1986.
However, the Committee on Style recommended that the approved Section 2 be amended by changing "percent" to "per centum" and "thereof" to "therein" and deleting the phrase "by law" in the second paragraph so that said paragraph reads: The Congress 43 shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right. This amendment was approved and is the text of the present second paragraph of Section 2.
The conclusion then is inevitable that, indeed, the system of initiative on the Constitution under Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution is not self-executory.
Has Congress "provided" for the implementation of the exercise of this right? Those who answer the question in the affirmative, like the private respondents and intervenor Senator Roco, point to us R.A. No. 6735.
There is, of course, no other better way for Congress to implement the exercise of the right than through the passage of a statute or legislative act. This is the essence or rationale of the last minute amendment by the Constitutional Commission to substitute the last paragraph of Section 2 of Article XVII then reading:
The Congress shall by law provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.
The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.
This substitute amendment was an investiture on Congress of a power to provide for the rules implementing the exercise of the right. The "rules" means "the details on how [the right] is to be carried out."
We agree that R.A. No. 6735 was, as its history reveals, intended to cover initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution. The Act is a consolidation of House Bill No. 21505 and Senate Bill No. 17. The former was prepared by the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms of the House of Representatives on the basis of two House Bills referred to it, viz., (a) House Bill No. 497, which dealt with the initiative and referendum mentioned in Sections 1 and 32 of Article VI of the Constitution; and (b) House Bill No. 988, which dealt with the subject matter of House Bill No. 497, as well as with initiative and referendum under Section 3 of Article X (Local Government) and initiative provided for in Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution. Senate Bill No. 17 solely dealt with initiative and referendum concerning ordinances or resolutions of local government units. The Bicameral Conference Committee consolidated Senate Bill No. 17 and House Bill No. 21505 into a draft bill, which was subsequently approved on 8 June 1989 by the Senate 50 and by the House of Representatives. This approved bill is now R.A. No. 6735.
But is R.A. No. 6735 a full compliance with the power and duty of Congress to "provide for the implementation of the exercise of the right?"
A careful scrutiny of the Act yields a negative answer.
First. Contrary to the assertion of public respondent COMELEC, Section 2 of the Act does not suggest an initiative on amendments to the Constitution. The said section reads:
SEC. 2. Statement and Policy. — The power of the people under a system of initiative and referendum to directly propose, enact, approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws, ordinances, or resolutions passed by any legislative body upon compliance with the requirements of this Act is hereby affirmed, recognized and guaranteed. (Emphasis supplied).
The inclusion of the word "Constitution" therein was a delayed afterthought. That word is neither germane nor relevant to said section, which exclusively relates to initiative and referendum on national laws and local laws, ordinances, and resolutions. That section is silent as to amendments on the Constitution. As pointed out earlier, initiative on the Constitution is confined only to proposals to AMEND. The people are not accorded the power to "directly propose, enact, approve, or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution" through the system of initiative. They can only do so with respect to "laws, ordinances, or resolutions."
The foregoing conclusion is further buttressed by the fact that this section was lifted from Section 1 of Senate Bill No. 17, which solely referred to a statement of policy on local initiative and referendum and appropriately used the phrases "propose and enact," "approve or reject" and "in whole or in part."
Second. It is true that Section 3 (Definition of Terms) of the Act defines initiative on amendments to the Constitution and mentions it as one of the three systems of initiative, and that Section 5 (Requirements) restates the constitutional requirements as to the percentage of the registered voters who must submit the proposal. But unlike in the case of the other systems of initiative, the Act does not provide for the contents of a petition for initiative on the Constitution. Section 5, paragraph (c) requires, among other things, statement of the proposed law sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed, as the case may be. It does not include, as among the contents of the petition, the provisions of the Constitution sought to be amended, in the case of initiative on the Constitution. Said paragraph (c) reads in full as follows:
(c) The petition shall state the following:
c.1 contents or text of the proposed law sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed, as the case may be;
c.2 the proposition;
c.3 the reason or reasons therefor;
c.4 that it is not one of the exceptions provided therein;
c.5 signatures of the petitioners or registered voters; and
c.6 an abstract or summary proposition is not more than one hundred (100) words which shall be legibly written or printed at the top of every page of the petition. (Emphasis supplied).
The use of the clause "proposed laws sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed" only strengthens the conclusion that Section 2, quoted earlier, excludes initiative on amendments to the Constitution.
Third. While the Act provides subtitles for National Initiative and Referendum (Subtitle II) and for Local Initiative and Referendum (Subtitle III), no subtitle is provided for initiative on the Constitution. This conspicuous silence as to the latter simply means that the main thrust of the Act is initiative and referendum on national and local laws. If Congress intended R.A. No. 6735 to fully provide for the implementation of the initiative on amendments to the Constitution, it could have provided for a subtitle therefor, considering that in the order of things, the primacy of interest, or hierarchy of values, the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution is far more important than the initiative on national and local laws.
We cannot accept the argument that the initiative on amendments to the Constitution is subsumed under the subtitle on National Initiative and Referendum because it is national in scope. Our reading of Subtitle II (National Initiative and Referendum) and Subtitle III (Local Initiative and Referendum) leaves no room for doubt that the classification is not based on the scope of the initiative involved, but on its nature and character. It is "national initiative," if what is proposed to be adopted or enacted is a national law, or a law which only Congress can pass. It is "local initiative" if what is proposed to be adopted or enacted is a law, ordinance, or resolution which only the legislative bodies of the governments of the autonomous regions, provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays can pass. This classification of initiative into national and local is actually based on Section 3 of the Act, which we quote for emphasis and clearer understanding:
SEC. 3. Definition of Terms —
xxx xxx xxx
There are three (3) systems of initiative, namely:
a.1 Initiative on the Constitution which refers to a petition proposing amendments to the Constitution;
a.2 Initiative on Statutes which refers to a petition proposing to enact a national legislation; and
a.3 Initiative on local legislation which refers to a petition proposing to enact a regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay law, resolution or ordinance. (Emphasis supplied).
Hence, to complete the classification under subtitles there should have been a subtitle on initiative on amendments to the Constitution.
A further examination of the Act even reveals that the subtitling is not accurate. Provisions not germane to the subtitle on National Initiative and Referendum are placed therein, like (1) paragraphs (b) and (c) of Section 9, which reads:
(b) The proposition in an initiative on the Constitution approved by the majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite shall become effective as to the day of the plebiscite.
(c) A national or local initiative proposition approved by majority of the votes cast in an election called for the purpose shall become effective fifteen (15) days after certification and proclamation of the Commission.
(2) that portion of Section 11 (Indirect Initiative) referring to indirect initiative with the legislative bodies of local governments; thus:
SEC. 11. Indirect Initiative. — Any duly accredited people's organization, as defined by law, may file a petition for indirect initiative with the House of Representatives, and other legislative bodies. . .
and (3) Section 12 on Appeal, since it applies to decisions of the COMELEC on the findings of sufficiency or insufficiency of the petition for initiative or referendum, which could be petitions for both national and local initiative and referendum.
Upon the other hand, Section 18 on "Authority of Courts" under subtitle III on Local Initiative and Referendum is misplaced, 54 since the provision therein applies to both national and local initiative and referendum. It reads:
SEC. 18. Authority of Courts. — Nothing in this Act shall prevent or preclude the proper courts from declaring null and void any proposition approved pursuant to this Act for violation of the Constitution or want of capacity of the local legislative body to enact the said measure.
Curiously, too, while R.A. No. 6735 exerted utmost diligence and care in providing for the details in the implementation of initiative and referendum on national and local legislation thereby giving them special attention, it failed, rather intentionally, to do so on the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution. Anent the initiative on national legislation, the Act provides for the following:
(a) The required percentage of registered voters to sign the petition and the contents of the petition;
(b) The conduct and date of the initiative;
(c) The submission to the electorate of the proposition and the required number of votes for its approval;
(d) The certification by the COMELEC of the approval of the proposition;
(e) The publication of the approved proposition in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines; and
(f) The effects of the approval or rejection of the proposition. 55
As regards local initiative, the Act provides for the following:
(a) The preliminary requirement as to the number of signatures of registered voters for the petition;
(b) The submission of the petition to the local legislative body concerned;
(c) The effect of the legislative body's failure to favorably act thereon, and the invocation of the power of initiative as a consequence thereof;
(d) The formulation of the proposition;
(e) The period within which to gather the signatures;
(f) The persons before whom the petition shall be signed;
(g) The issuance of a certification by the COMELEC through its official in the local government unit concerned as to whether the required number of signatures have been obtained;
(h) The setting of a date by the COMELEC for the submission of the proposition to the registered voters for their approval, which must be within the period specified therein;
(i) The issuance of a certification of the result;
(j) The date of effectivity of the approved proposition;
(k) The limitations on local initiative; and
(l) The limitations upon local legislative bodies. 56
Upon the other hand, as to initiative on amendments to the Constitution, R.A. No. 6735, in all of its twenty-three sections, merely (a) mentions, the word "Constitution" in Section 2; (b) defines "initiative on the Constitution" and includes it in the enumeration of the three systems of initiative in Section 3; (c) speaks of "plebiscite" as the process by which the proposition in an initiative on the Constitution may be approved or rejected by the people; (d) reiterates the constitutional requirements as to the number of voters who should sign the petition; and (e) provides for the date of effectivity of the approved proposition.
There was, therefore, an obvious downgrading of the more important or the paramount system of initiative. R.A. No. 6735 thus delivered a humiliating blow to the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution by merely paying it a reluctant lip service. 57
The foregoing brings us to the conclusion that R.A. No. 6735 is incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on this substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by "empowering" the COMELEC "to promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of [the] Act.
The rule is that what has been delegated, cannot be delegated or as expressed in a Latin maxim: potestas delegata non delegari potest. The recognized exceptions to the rule are as follows:
(1) Delegation of tariff powers to the President under Section 28(2) of Article VI of the Constitution;
(2) Delegation of emergency powers to the President under Section 23 (2) of Article VI of the Constitution;
(3) Delegation to the people at large;
(4) Delegation to local governments; and
(5) Delegation to administrative bodies. 60
Empowering the COMELEC, an administrative body exercising quasi-judicial functions, to promulgate rules and regulations is a form of delegation of legislative authority under no. 5 above. However, in every case of permissible delegation, there must be a showing that the delegation itself is valid. It is valid only if the law (a) is complete in itself, setting forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out, or implemented by the delegate; and (b) fixes a standard — the limits of which are sufficiently determinate and determinable — to which the delegate must conform in the performance of his functions.
A sufficient standard is one which defines legislative policy, marks its limits, maps out its boundaries and specifies the public agency to apply it. It indicates the circumstances under which the legislative command is to be effected.
Insofar as initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution is concerned, R.A. No. 6735 miserably failed to satisfy both requirements in subordinate legislation. The delegation of the power to the COMELEC is then invalid.
The process followed by respondent Sigaw ng Bayan is flawed even under the standards of the supposed legal basis for its actions, RA 6735.
The process followed by respondent Sigaw ng Bayan is itself contrary to the provisions of RA 6735, the law erroneously cited by SIgaw ng Bayan as basis for its supposed “people’s initiative.” To begin with, the petition upon which the signatures are affixed is not prescribed by the Commission on Elections. It is a self-made and self-serving form that is deceiving and misleading. It is not based on the Commission on Elections’ certificate on the total number of registered voters in each legislative district. It calls for a process of revision, not just an amendment/s of the Constitution. Further, the alleged petition does not state allegations essential to its reliability, to wit:
1. contents or text of the proposed law sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed, as the case may be;
2. the proposition;
3. the reason or reasons therefor;
4. that it is not one of the exceptions provided therein;
5. signatures of the petitioners or registered voters; and
6. an abstract or summary proposition is not more than one hundred (100) words which shall be legibly written or printed at the top of every page of the petition.
Simply stated, Sigaw ng Bayan’s exercise is one fraught with contradictions not just within the parameters of the Constitution but also vis-à-vis the stipulations of RA 6735. It is indeed a useless process that would go nowhere. For the Commission on Elections to act on such matter is like throwing spoiled crumbs to the dogs. By eating the leftovers of a bygone era – an excess that the Supreme Court has majestically denied as fatuous – the Commission on Elections might end up poisoning itself. Verily, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, yet we never learn from past mistakes, a hangover from assessment of too much self-importance and greed. This petition must then be granted, and the Commission on Elections be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to, or revision of, the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system. Res ipsa loquitur.
ALLEGATIONS IN SUPPORT OF THE PRAYER FOR
A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND WRIT OF INJUNCTION
Petitioners replead the foregoing statements in support of its prayer for a temporary restraining order and a writ of injunction. They have a clear legal right to these provisional remedies since the actions of both the Commission on Elections and the Sigaw ng Bayan are clearly illegal and immoral. This is very obvious from Defensor-Santiago et al. v. Commission on Elections et al., supra. The injury to petitioners if the unlawful acts persist is grave and irreparable. The money wasted thereon can no longer be returned to government coffers – a fate similar to those that happened with the Commission on Elections’ computerization program and the fertilizer scam. Further, once done, the revision of the Constitution may no longer be corrected since any attempt to undo it would be disruptive to the country’s legal system. Thus, the illegal process must be stopped this early, that is, now.
WHEREFORE, petitioners respectfully pray that judgment be rendered granting the instant petition
I. Grant the Petition for Prohibition with Injunction by prohibiting the Commission on Election of the (Province, City or Municipality) from conducting verification of signatures of the Peoples initiative submitted by Sigaw ng Bayan, by Local Government Officials, ULAP or any other supposed peoples’ organization the initiative supporters may use in the current campaign for signatures.
II. In the alternative, if the COMELEC has completed its verification of signatures, to declare such verification null and void.
III. Prohibit the COMELEC from issuing a certification that it has verified signatures in the campaign for peoples initiative and declare any such issued certification void and without force and effect.
IV. Order the COMELEC officials to show cause why it cannot be held in Contempt of the Supreme Court for violating the permanent injunction in Santiago vs. Comelec.
V. Other relief