For not showing a complete copy of the proposed amendments to the signatories.
That is the simple reason the Supreme Court gives, though in many more words, for why they find no merit in the prayer of Lambino v. Comelec to force a Plebiscite on their proposal to shift to a Unicameral Parliament. Disdainfully declaring that the Initiative Petitioners had "failed miserably" to comply with the most basic requirements of the Constitution, the Court said
The framers of the Constitution directly borrowed the concept of people’s initiative from the United States where various State constitutions incorporate an initiative clause. In almost all States which allow initiative petitions, the unbending requirement is that the people must first see the full text of the proposed amendments before they sign to signify their assent, and that the people must sign on an initiative petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments. I haven't seen Dean Raul Pangalangan of the UP Law School as relaxed and obviously enjoying himself as on ABSCBN News just now with Tony Velasquez. He makes the excellent observation that after nine whole years to study the first time the Supreme Court invalidated an Initiative on the Constitution (when Fidel V. Ramos used Pirma to try to lift term limits), its proponents again failed, on the most rudimentary of requirements.
I join in his SCHADENFREUDE!
(UPDATED Oct. 28, 2006)
“Insufficient in form” may seem like the simplest infirmity to avoid. It would seem to be a mere FORMality. But as controversies such as these are resolved, we learn that the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of our face.
That a complete copy of the proposed amendment(s) be “shown to the people” before they sign the initiative petition IS such a formality, but its absence points to something more than carelessness. It points to the fact that the whole Unicameral Parliamentary idea is such a big complex thing with all sorts of legal and political ramifications that they couldn't even provide a complete copy of the thing in a finished and final form. They were merely asking for license to click around with the Constitution and make a Parliament and all that.
So even a formal technicality or a technical formality can be an important requirement that enforces SUBSTANTIAL aspects, such as having a complete amendment ready to go to be signed without further changes.
Why did 7 not agree with such a slam dunk? Well, I surely didn’t see it as being so decisive when I first thought or read about this objection to PI a long time ago. Was it so obvious to everybody? Most were focussed on the evil motives of the backers of the petition.
It is entirely possible those justices are jockeying for Chief Justice. As you know, after panganiban retires, there is the possibility of a reversal. But that would be an even longer shot than this one.