Macalintal Raises Concerns Over Simultaneous Cha-cha Plebiscite and 2025 Midterm Polls

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal
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ELECTION lawyer Romulo Macalintal has raised concerns about President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s proposal to hold the 2025 midterm polls and the Charter change (Cha-cha) plebiscite simultaneously, citing potential constitutional issues.

Macalintal respectfully disagrees with President Marcos, stating that holding a plebiscite to amend the Constitution alongside the 2025 national and local elections (NLEs) may be constitutionally questionable. According to Section 4, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution, any amendment or revision must be ratified through a plebiscite. The provision does not mention ratification through an election or a combination of both. Macalintal refers to the opinions of the majority of the Supreme Court (SC) justices in the November 1967 consolidated cases of Gonzales v. Comelec and Philconsa v. Comelec, which emphasized the need for an independent plebiscite for any amendment or revision.

The Gonzales v. Comelec and Philconsa v. Comelec cases deliberated on the constitutionality of Republic Act (RA) 4913, which allowed proposed amendments to the 1935 Constitution to be submitted to the people alongside regular elections in November 1967. Macalintal highlights that the majority of the justices deemed the law unconstitutional because the people should be able to decide on amendments without being influenced by extraneous matters, such as the choice of elective officials. Justice Jose B.L. Reyes emphasized that amendments should be debated, considered, and voted upon in an election where the people can give undivided attention to the subject.

While most justices voted against the constitutionality of RA 4913, the lack of concurrence from eight justices resulted in the law being upheld. At that time, the Supreme Court consisted of a chief justice and 10 associate justices. Under the 1935 Constitution, a two-thirds vote or eight justices were required to declare a law unconstitutional. Since only six justices voted against its constitutionality, the minority upheld its validity.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) suggests that individuals questioning the constitutionality of synchronizing the 2025 midterm polls and a plebiscite should file a case before the Supreme Court. Comelec spokesman John Rex Laudiangco explains that the issue of conducting a plebiscite alongside the scheduled national and local elections falls under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, as it is a political matter. He emphasizes that any person can challenge such acts before the Supreme Court.

Laudiangco further adds that the Comelec will rely on the decision of Congress in this matter, as it is a political act. He also assures that the Comelec is capable of synchronizing the 2025 polls with the plebiscite, as stated by Chairman George Erwin Garcia. However, a group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives believe that the plebiscite should be held separately from the 2025 midterm elections.

House Deputy Speaker David “Jay-jay” Suarez emphasizes that the process of amending the Constitution should not be politicized. He believes that the people should be able to focus their attention on the merits of the proposed amendments without the distraction of elections.

In conclusion, the proposal to hold the 2025 midterm polls and the Charter change plebiscite simultaneously raises constitutional concerns. Lawyer Romulo Macalintal argues that the Constitution mandates a separate plebiscite for any amendment or revision. The Supreme Court’s past decisions support the need for an independent plebiscite, free from the influence of electoral matters. The Comelec suggests that those questioning the constitutionality of the proposal should seek redress from the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the decision on whether to synchronize the two events lies in the hands of Congress, while the Comelec remains prepared to carry out the synchronized polls if required.

Source: The Manila Times

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