The Futility of Collecting Cha-cha Signatures

Atty. Romulo Macalintal
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ELECTION lawyer Romulo Macalintal has called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cease accepting signature sheets in support of a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution. Macalintal argues that gathering signatures for a people’s initiative is futile as these signatures hold no evidentiary value and cannot serve as the basis for an initiative.

Macalintal emphasizes that receiving these signature sheets gives the false impression to the public that a valid initiative to amend the constitution has already been initiated. He explains that a people’s initiative is one of the legal methods to amend the Constitution, alongside a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) and a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

According to Macalintal, Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia has admitted that the commission has not yet received a petition for a people’s initiative. He asserts that without a petition, the Comelec lacks jurisdiction over any attempt to change the constitution through an initiative.

Macalintal cites Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution, which states that any amendment through initiative must be “upon a petition.” Since no petition has been filed with the Comelec, he argues that there is no legal basis for submitting the signature sheets to the commission. Macalintal emphasizes that it is premature to submit the signatures without a formal petition and that the Comelec has no valid reason to receive them. He draws attention to the 2006 case of Lambino vs Comelec, where the Supreme Court ruled that the people must read the petition before signing it.

Macalintal also refers to Section 12(b)(e), Article II of Comelec Resolution 10650, dated January 31, 2020. This resolution stipulates that proponents of an initiative must ensure that petitioners have read and understood the petition and given their consent. Therefore, Macalintal argues that the signature sheets, without an existing petition, cannot be the basis for a valid initiative.

Furthermore, Macalintal highlights that the Comelec cannot begin verifying the signatures since the required verification fees, as outlined in Comelec Resolution 10650, have not been paid. The fee, approximately P100,000, depends on the number of signatures to be verified. Macalintal adds that the resolution also mandates a filing fee of P30,000, which no one has paid. Consequently, he asserts that no one has fulfilled these basic requirements.

Macalintal suggests that, at this stage, the only action the Comelec can take is to certify the number of registered voters in each legislative district. These numbers can then be attached to the petition for conducting an initiative.

The Comelec has been receiving stacks of papers containing signatures in support of the people’s initiative from numerous municipalities and cities. Chairman Garcia has stated that election officers are meticulously verifying the signature sheets to ensure the accuracy of the tally. The signature pages explicitly inquire whether the voters are in favor of amending Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, which pertains to allowing all members of Congress to jointly vote on proposed constitutional amendments in a constituent assembly.

In conclusion, Macalintal urges the Comelec to halt the acceptance of signature sheets for the people’s initiative, emphasizing that without a filed petition and fulfillment of the required fees, the initiative lacks a legal basis.

Source: The Manila Times

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