Signatures Gathered for Charter Change (Cha-cha) through People’s Initiative

ON CHARTER CHANGE Lawyer Evaristo Gana, Commission on Elections Chairman George Erwin Garcia, and National Lead Convenor of People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action Noel Oñate discuss Peoples Initiative at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO
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ALBAY 2nd District Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” Salceda announced on Wednesday that the required number of signatures to allow Charter change (Cha-cha) through a people’s initiative has been reached. This significant development brings the possibility of amending the 1987 Constitution closer to reality.

Under the 1987 Constitution, citizens have the right to propose amendments to the charter through a petition signed by at least 12 percent of registered voters. Additionally, each legislative district must be represented by a minimum of 3 percent of registered voters. Salceda revealed in a radio interview that the number of signatures collected has surpassed the required 12.1 percent threshold.

However, before the process can move forward, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) needs to validate the signatures. Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia stated that as of Wednesday, January 24, 187 legislative districts and 1,010 cities and municipalities have received certifications from election officers. It is important to note that there are a total of 254 legislative districts, 149 cities, and 1,485 municipalities in the Philippines.

Garcia assured the public that the Comelec will ensure the verification of signatures is done correctly if the people’s initiative prospers. He emphasized that the verification process will be conducted at the local Comelec offices, and any concerns or complaints regarding signatures should be brought to these offices.

Despite calls from individuals and groups to stop accepting signature pages, the Comelec will continue to accept them since no formal petition has been filed yet. Garcia mentioned that counting the signatures is straightforward, as each page contains only 10 signatures. The Comelec en banc will not interfere with the verification process, leaving it to the local Comelec offices to handle any issues that may arise.

In response to the people’s initiative, some senators expressed their reservations, cautioning against any “underhanded” attempts to exploit the democratic process through a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution. However, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez clarified that the House of Representatives does not endorse or sanction direct involvement by its members in signature gathering for Cha-cha. Romualdez emphasized the House’s commitment to ensuring the integrity and independence of the process.

Romualdez stated, “The people’s initiative stands as a direct expression of the people’s will, providing a means for citizens to propose constitutional amendments.” He further clarified that while the House respects and supports the people’s initiative, their role is to facilitate and encourage democratic participation without direct involvement in signature collection. The House is dedicated to processing proposals in accordance with legal and constitutional guidelines, maintaining the integrity of the Constitution in subsequent legislative actions.

Romualdez emphasized the House’s commitment to transparency and accountability, providing a framework to support the people’s initiative. He affirmed the people’s initiative as the purest form of democracy and acknowledged the need to reexamine the Constitution’s economic provisions to remove growth barriers and attract foreign capital and direct investments, which are crucial for the Philippine economy.

In conclusion, the required number of signatures for Charter change through a people’s initiative has been achieved. The next crucial step is the validation of these signatures by the Comelec. While some senators expressed concerns, the House of Representatives remains committed to facilitating the democratic process without direct involvement in signature gathering. The House aims to provide a transparent and accountable framework to support the people’s initiative, ensuring the integrity of the Constitution and fostering economic growth for the Philippines.

Source: The Manila Times

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