"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Monday, May 22, 2006

Enabling law filed for People's Initiative

After pushing for legislated Charter change, Sen. Richard Gordon filed yesterday Senate Bill 2247, which would provide an enabling law for the people’s initiative as a means of making changes in the Constitution.

In filing the Senate bill, Gordon cited the Supreme Court ruling on the case Santiago filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), declaring that Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act was insufficient for the conduct of a people’s initiative.

"Since no law has been passed yet by Congress, the same situation in Santiago vs Comelec… holds true at present and any attempt to propose amendments to the Constitution via the people’s initiative will only be futile absent an enabling law," he said.

However, Gordon also placed a prohibitive provision which would allow one proposed amendment to the Constitution. "No petition for people’s initiative covering more than one proposed amendment to the Constitution or amounting to a revision of the Constitution shall be allowed," his proposed measure read.

The government’s plan to introduce amendments to the Constitution has been hampered by the Supreme Court ruling, prompting Gordon to file SB 2247. In Section 4, Gordon said the people’s initiative may be exercised by all registered voters in the Philippines.

"A petition for the people’s initiative must have at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters," read SB 2247.

The people’s initiative may be exercised only once every five years, Gordon added. The proposed bill also states that the Comelec shall prescribe the form for a petition for people’s initiative, which includes the provision that petitioners seek to amend; the proposed amendment; the reason for the proposition, not exceeding one thousand words; proof that public hearings and consultations are held in each legislative district to ensure that the people have been properly informed of the proposition; and a statement under oath by a proponent in each legislative district that the petitioners in his or her legislative district, knowingly, freely, and voluntarily supports the proposition and names, addresses and signatures of the petitioners.

Gordon also stated that a petition for people’s initiative filed with the Comelec that violates any provision of this SB 2247 shall be dismissed by the poll body and the proponents of this particular initiative shall be punished with a jail term of one to six years or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P600,000.

The plebiscite shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the Comelec certifies that the petition is sufficient for the people’s initiative.

The budget for this plebiscite shall be charged against the contingent fund in the General Appropriations Act of the current year, according to Gordon’s proposed bill.

Enabling law filed for initiative
By Christina Mendez with Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star 05/23/2006