Taking civic initiative: Where every citizen is a lawmaker

Luisito Gepuela
As residents of a barangay, you can turn your ideas into reality! This can be done through the mechanism known as 'Local Initiative'

Are you frustrated with community policies (or the lack of them)? Are you irritated at the glacial delivery pace of local government services? Were your ideas at the Barangay Assembly given a deaf ear by those present? 

Fear not! You can still turn your ideas into reality! This can be done through the mechanism known as Local Initiative.

Section 120 of Republic Act 7160, “The Local Government Code of 1991,” as amended, defines it clearly: 

“Local initiative is the legal process whereby the registered voters of a local government unit may directly propose, enact, or amend any ordinance.” 

This power may be exercised by any registered voter, and may affect local law at the provincial, city, municipal, and even the barangay level. This is provided under Sections 120 to 127 of the Local Government Code, as amended, and does not require prior approval of the provincial, city, municipal, or barangay council. (READ: Rule XX of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7160)

Under Section 122 of the same law, the following minimum number of petitioners are needed:

  • at least one thousand (1,000) registered voters, for provincial and city ordinances
  • at least one hundred (100) registered voters, for municipal ordinances
  • at least fifty (50) registered voters, for barangay ordinances

This process begins with the filing of a written petition, proposing the adoption, repeal, or amendment of an ordinance with the local sanggunian (council) concerned. (Section 8 of Republic Act 9485, “The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007” provides that submitted documents shall be acted upon by the assigned official not longer than ten (10) days from receipt. Where an extension is needed, the official must notify the requesting party in writing of the reason for the extension and the final date of action.)

If no favorable action is taken by the sanggunian concerned within 30 days from presentation, the proponents (personally, or through representatives), may, by giving written notice to the sanggunian concerned, invoke their power of initiative. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC), through the local election officer, is mandated to extend assistance in the formulation of the proposition. Each proposition must be numbered serially, starting with the Roman numeral I, and two or more propositions may be submitted.

The proponents have the following time periods, from the notice of initiative, to collect the required number of signatures:

  • 90 days, for provincial and city ordinances
  • 60 days, for municipal ordinances
  • 30 days, for barangay ordinances

The following minimum number of signatures are needed:

  • at least 10% of all registered voters, where at least 3% of each legislative district is represented, for provincial and city ordinances, where the province or city has more than one legislative district
  • at 10% of all registered voters, where at least 3% of each municipality in the province is represented, for provincial ordinances, where the province has only one legislative district
  • at least 10% of all registered voters, where at least 3% of each barangay in the city or municipality is represented, for city and municipal ordinances
  • at least 10% of all registered voters, for barangay ordinances

The petitions shall be signed in public places within the local government unit, in the presence of the election registrar, the proponent, and the members of the sanggunian concerned (or their designated representatives). 

The local COMELEC official then certifies the result. If the required minimum number of signatures is not met, the proposition is defeated. If the required minimum number of signatures is met, the COMELEC then sets a voting date, where the proposition is put to a general vote:

  • 60 days hence (for provincial and city ordinances) 
  • 45 days hence (for municipality ordinances)
  • 30 days hence (for barangay ordinances)

If the proposition is approved by a simple majority of the votes cast, it takes effect 15 days after certification by the COMELEC. If it fails to garner a simple majority of the votes cast, it is defeated.

If the sanggunian concerned enacts the proposition as presented as an ordinance, the initiative is cancelled, however, those against that action may continue with the initiative process as provided by the Local Government Code.

Citizen empowerment

The power of local initiative cannot be exercised more than once a year, and propositions must be within the legal powers of the sanggunian to enact, as provided by the Local Government Code.

Any proposition approved through initiative cannot be repealed, modified, or amended by the sanggunian concerned within 6 months from the date of approval (18 months, for barangays). After this prescriptive period, the proposition approved through initiative can only be repealed, amended, or modified by the sanggunian concerned by a vote of 3/4ths of all its members.

Residents of Barangay Milagrosa in Quezon City made history last May 2011 by being the first to successfully enact a barangay ordinance in this manner, with a vote of 465 in favor and 384 against, thereby setting a precedent.

You might just be that change your community seeks. Champion your ideas! Take the initiative! – Rappler.com

Lou Gepuela is a Filipino citizen who believes that sustained public engagement with government and continued community empowerment is the missing link in fixing a significant portion of society’s ills. He spent five years learning and applying process improvement, people management, and customer care skills in the local BPO industry.

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