Comelec

Charter change roadblock: Comelec halts proceedings related to people’s initiative

Dwight de Leon

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Charter change roadblock: Comelec halts proceedings related to people’s initiative

Progressive groups opposed to charter change picket the gates of the House of Representatives to protest the alleged use of public funds for collecting signatures for the People’s Initiative on Charter Change, on January 22, 2024.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The poll body says the Comelec resolution governing the conduct of people's initiatives needs to be revisited first, so it's putting the brakes on the people's initiative

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said all offices nationwide will stop accepting signature sheets, whose ultimate purpose is to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution.

In a press conference on Monday, January 29, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said it is putting the brakes on the people’s initiative to review its guidelines.

“We need to review, enhance, and add to the existing implementing rules and regulations concerning the people’s initiative. In our opinion, there are missing elements in the guidelines, such as rules on withdrawal, petition, and notice,” he explained in a mix of English and Filipino.

“We need those elements to avoid confusion in the interpretation of rules,” he added.

Comelec Resolution No. 10650 is the document governing the conduct of people’s initiatives to amend the 1987 Constitution.

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on January 25, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said the latest people’s initiative push is unconstitutional, and asked the Comelec to throw out any petition that would be filed in favor of that agenda.

He argued that the Supreme Court – when he was still a member of the body – already ruled that only amendments, not revisions, can be made through a people’s initiative. What people’s initiative proponents want, he insisted, is a revision of the Constitution.

The signature sheets that were distributed across the country seek to get the public’s support on a proposal to amend a constitutional provision that is silent on whether the House and the Senate would vote jointly or separately should someone make a motion to form a constituent assembly.

“The people’s initiative concept, we borrowed it from the US…. There are several decisions in the US saying that when you alter the check and balance, in Congress or in the government, that is a revision. It cannot be the subject of an amendment,” Carpio said.

House ways and means chairperson Joey Salceda, an advocate of the people’s initiative, criticized the Comelec’s decision on Monday.

“The Commission cannot unilaterally defeat or delay an act of the people, by simply refusing to implement the provisions of the Constitution, the law, and the rules and regulations Comelec itself issued under Resolution No 10650 s. 2020,” he said.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.