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BUTUAN, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Butuan City has confirmed receiving forms containing 53,495 signatures as part of the so-called people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Butuan City Election Officer Tristan Niog told Rappler that they received 5,767 forms for Charter change (Cha-Cha) with signatures from 86 barangays. These were submitted by a group called Lawyers for Constitutional Change through its representative, lawyer Isha Vallinas, on January 17.
“This constitutes 23% of the voters, significantly higher compared to the required percentage for each congressional district in the people’s initiative, set at only 3%. So, if it’s 23%, that 3% would be around 8,000 to 10,000, but we have more than 53,000, and that’s a substantial number,” he said.
Niog said his office submitted the certification to the Comelec national office on the same day.
“We have only accepted the signature forms to issue a certification confirming that we have received them, which is part of the initial stage, and submitted them already to the clerk at the national office of Comelec. Currently, we have not provided any comments on the forms’ accuracy or the authenticity of the signatures as it will be in phase 2 or the verification phase, where we will scrutinize these forms and check if the signatures match those of registered voters,” he added.
Niog said they were awaiting directives on the verification process from the national office, whether it would involve checking against their database system or visiting the barangays.
Amid the issues of coercion and signature buying, Niog reminded the voters of Butuan to be careful and treat their signatures as “sacred.”
“As we’ve been saying during the election, voting must be voluntary. The same is true with this signature campaign. Voters should sign voluntarily, and it should be done conscientiously. They must also carefully examine what they are signing,” he said.
The so-called people’s initiative being pushed by groups seeks to amend Article 17, Section 1 of the Constitution, allowing members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote jointly.
Based on Republic Act 6735, or the Initiative and Referendum Act, a constitutional amendment via people’s initiative requires the signatures of a minimum of 12% of all registered voters, including representation from at least 3% of registered voters in each congressional district.
Butuan is a 1st-class highly-urbanized city in the Caraga region. In the 2022 National and Local Elections, the city had 225,895 registered voters. – Rappler.com
Ivy Marie Mangadlao is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.