Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Supreme Court Rules Against People's Initiative, 8 to 7

The official Supreme Court Website has just published Lambino v. Comelec, an historic decision on People's Initiative to amend the Constitution. The close vote of 8 to 7 perhaps obscures the scathing demolition and almost disdainful rejection of the Sigaw Ng Bayan petition to declare Comelec in grave abuse of discretion for rejecting its Initiative Petition for Plebiscite. The Court found the Initiative Petition does not even comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution in various crucial points of of FORM and SUBSTANCE, making unnecessary even a review of its previous decision in Santiago v. Comelec.

Stare decisis non quieta movere!

More later after I read the whole thing!

EN BANC

RAUL L. LAMBINO and ERICO B. G.R. No. 174153

AUMENTADO, TOGETHER WITH

6,327,952 REGISTERED VOTERS,

Petitioners,

- versus -

THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

Respondent.

x--------------------------------------------------------x

ALTERNATIVE LAW GROUPS, INC.,

Intervenor.

X ------------------------------------------------------ x

ONEVOICE INC., CHRISTIAN S.

MONSOD, RENE B. AZURIN,

MANUEL L. QUEZON III, BENJAMIN

T. TOLOSA, JR., SUSAN V. OPLE and

CARLOS P. MEDINA, JR.,

Intervenors.

X ------------------------------------------------------ x

ATTY. PETE QUIRINO QUADRA,

Intervenor.

x--------------------------------------------------------x

BAYAN represented by its Chairperson

Dr. Carolina Pagaduan-Araullo, BAYAN MUNA

represented by its Chairperson Dr. Reynaldo

Lesaca, KILUSANG MAYO UNO represented

by its Secretary General Joel Maglunsod, HEAD

represented by its Secretary General Dr. Gene

Alzona Nisperos, ECUMENICAL BISHOPS

FORUM represented by Fr. Dionito Cabillas,

MIGRANTE represented by its Chairperson

Concepcion Bragas-Regalado, GABRIELA

represented by its Secretary General

Emerenciana de Jesus, GABRIELA WOMEN'S

PARTY represented by Sec. Gen. Cristina Palabay,

ANAKBAYAN represented by Chairperson

Eleanor de Guzman, LEAGUE OF FILIPINO

STUDENTS represented by Chair Vencer

Crisostomo Palabay, JOJO PINEDA of the

League of Concerned Professionals and

Businessmen, DR. DARBY SANTIAGO

of the Solidarity of Health Against Charter

Change, DR. REGINALD PAMUGAS of

Health Action for Human Rights,

Intervenors.

x--------------------------------------------------------x

LORETA ANN P. ROSALES,

MARIO JOYO AGUJA, and ANA THERESA

HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL,

Intervenors.

x--------------------------------------------------------x

LUWALHATI RIACASA ANTONINO,

Intervenor.

x-------------------------------------------------------- x

ARTURO M. DE CASTRO,

Intervenor.

X ------------------------------------------------------- x

TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF THE

PHILIPPINES,

Intervenor.

x---------------------------------------------------------x

LUWALHATI RICASA ANTONINO,

Intervenor.

X ------------------------------------------------------- x

PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION

ASSOCIATION (PHILCONSA), CONRADO

F. ESTRELLA, TOMAS C. TOLEDO,

MARIANO M. TAJON, FROILAN M.

BACUNGAN, JOAQUIN T. VENUS, JR.,

FORTUNATO P. AGUAS, and AMADO

GAT INCIONG,

Intervenors.

x ------------------------------------------------------- x

RONALD L. ADAMAT, ROLANDO

MANUEL RIVERA, and RUELO BAYA,

Intervenors.

x -------------------------------------------------------- x

PHILIPPINE TRANSPORT AND GENERAL

WORKERS ORGANIZATION (PTGWO)

and MR. VICTORINO F. BALAIS,

Intervenors.

x -------------------------------------------------------- x

SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented

by its President, MANUEL VILLAR, JR.,

Intervenor.

x ------------------------------------------------------- x

SULONG BAYAN MOVEMENT

FOUNDATION, INC.,

Intervenor.

x ------------------------------------------------------- x

JOSE ANSELMO I. CADIZ, BYRON D.

BOCAR, MA. TANYA KARINA A. LAT,

ANTONIO L. SALVADOR, and

RANDALL TABAYOYONG,

Intervenors.

x -------------------------------------------------------- x

INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES,

CEBU CITY AND CEBU PROVINCE

CHAPTERS,

Intervenors.

x --------------------------------------------------------x

SENATE MINORITY LEADER AQUILINO

Q. PIMENTEL, JR. and SENATORS

SERGIO R. OSMEŇA III, JAMBY

MADRIGAL, JINGGOY ESTRADA,

ALFREDO S. LIM and

PANFILO LACSON,

Intervenors.

x -----------------------------------------------------x

JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA and

PWERSA NG MASANG PILIPINO,

Intervenors.

x -----------------------------------------------------x

MAR-LEN ABIGAIL BINAY, G.R. No. 174299

SOFRONIO UNTALAN, JR., and

RENE A.V. SAGUISAG, Present:

Petitioners,

PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

- versus - PUNO,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

represented by Chairman BENJAMIN CARPIO,

S. ABALOS, SR., and Commissioners AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

RESURRECCION Z. BORRA, CORONA,

FLORENTINO A. TUASON, JR., CARPIO MORALES,

ROMEO A. BRAWNER, CALLEJO, SR.,

RENE V. SARMIENTO AZCUNA,

NICODEMO T. FERRER, and TINGA,

John Doe and Peter Doe, CHICO-NAZARIO,

Respondents. GARCIA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:

October 25, 2006

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x


D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:


The Case

These are consolidated petitions on the Resolution dated 31 August 2006 of the Commission on Elections (“COMELEC”) denying due course to an initiative petition to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Antecedent Facts

On 15 February 2006, petitioners in G.R. No. 174153, namely Raul L. Lambino and Erico B. Aumentado (“Lambino Group”), with other groups[1] and individuals, commenced gathering signatures for an initiative petition to change the 1987 Constitution. On 25 August 2006, the Lambino Group filed a petition with the COMELEC to hold a plebiscite that will ratify their initiative petition under Section 5(b) and (c)[2] and Section 7[3] of Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act (“RA 6735”).

The Lambino Group alleged that their petition had the support of 6,327,952 individuals constituting at least twelve per centum (12%) of all registered voters, with each legislative district represented by at least three per centum (3%) of its registered voters. The Lambino Group also claimed that COMELEC election registrars had verified the signatures of the 6.3 million individuals.

The Lambino Group’s initiative petition changes the 1987 Constitution by modifying Sections 1-7 of Article VI (Legislative Department)[4] and Sections 1-4 of Article VII (Executive Department)[5] and by adding Article XVIII entitled “Transitory Provisions.”[6] These proposed changes will shift the present Bicameral-Presidential system to a Unicameral-Parliamentary form of government. The Lambino Group prayed that after due publication of their petition, the COMELEC should submit the following proposition in a plebiscite for the voters’ ratification:

DO YOU APPROVE THE AMENDMENT OF ARTICLES VI AND VII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION, CHANGING THE FORM OF GOVERNEMNT FROM THE PRESENT BICAMERAL-PRESIDENTIAL TO A UNICAMERAL-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM, AND PROVIDING ARTICLE XVIII AS TRANSITORY PROVISIONS FOR THE ORDERLY SHIFT FROM ONE SYSTEM TO THE OTHER?

On 30 August 2006, the Lambino Group filed an Amended Petition with the COMELEC indicating modifications in the proposed Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions) of their initiative.[7]

The Ruling of the COMELEC

On 31 August 2006, the COMELEC issued its Resolution denying due course to the Lambino Group’s petition for lack of an enabling law governing initiative petitions to amend the Constitution. The COMELEC invoked this Court’s ruling in Santiago v. Commission on Elections[8] declaring RA 6735 inadequate to implement the initiative clause on proposals to amend the Constitution.[9]

In G.R. No. 174153, the Lambino Group prays for the issuance of the writs of certiorari and mandamus to set aside the COMELEC Resolution of 31 August 2006 and to compel the COMELEC to give due course to their initiative petition. The Lambino Group contends that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in denying due course to their petition since Santiago is not a binding precedent. Alternatively, the Lambino Group claims that Santiago binds only the parties to that case, and their petition deserves cognizance as an expression of the “will of the sovereign people.”

In G.R. No. 174299, petitioners (“Binay Group”) pray that the Court require respondent COMELEC Commissioners to show cause why they should not be cited in contempt for the COMELEC’s verification of signatures and for “entertaining” the Lambino Group’s petition despite the permanent injunction in Santiago. The Court treated the Binay Group’s petition as an opposition-in-intervention.

In his Comment to the Lambino Group’s petition, the Solicitor General joined causes with the petitioners, urging the Court to grant the petition despite the Santiago ruling. The Solicitor General proposed that the Court treat RA 6735 and its implementing rules “as temporary devises to implement the system of initiative.”

Various groups and individuals sought intervention, filing pleadings supporting or opposing the Lambino Group’s petition. The supporting intervenors[10] uniformly hold the view that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in relying on Santiago. On the other hand, the opposing intervenors[11] hold the contrary view and maintain that Santiago is a binding precedent. The opposing intervenors also challenged (1) the Lambino Group’s standing to file the petition; (2) the validity of the signature gathering and verification process; (3) the Lambino Group’s compliance with the minimum requirement for the percentage of voters supporting an initiative petition under Section 2, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution;[12] (4) the nature of the proposed changes as revisions and not mere amendments as provided under Section 2, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution; and (5) the Lambino Group’s compliance with the requirement in Section 10(a) of RA 6735 limiting initiative petitions to only one subject.

The Court heard the parties and intervenors in oral arguments on 26 September 2006. After receiving the parties’ memoranda, the Court considered the case submitted for resolution.

The Issues

The petitions raise the following issues:

1. Whether the Lambino Group’s initiative petition complies with Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution on amendments to the Constitution through a people’s initiative;

2. Whether this Court should revisit its ruling in Santiago declaring RA 6735 “incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions” to implement the initiative clause on proposals to amend the Constitution; and

3. Whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in denying due course to the Lambino Group’s petition.


The Ruling of the Court


There is no merit to the petition.


The Lambino Group miserably failed to comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution for conducting a people’s initiative. Thus, there is even no need to revisit Santiago, as the present petition warrants dismissal based alone on the Lambino Group’s glaring failure to comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution. For following the Court’s ruling in Santiago, no grave abuse of discretion is attributable to the Commision on Elections.

1. The Initiative Petition Does Not Comply with Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution on Direct Proposal by the People

Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution is the governing constitutional provision that allows a people’s initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution. This section states:

Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

The deliberations of the Constitutional Commission vividly explain the meaning of an amendment “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition,” thus:

MR. RODRIGO: Let us look at the mechanics. Let us say some voters want to propose a constitutional amendment. Is the draft of the proposed constitutional amendment ready to be shown to the people when they are asked to sign?

MR. SUAREZ: That can be reasonably assumed, Madam President.

MR. RODRIGO: What does the sponsor mean? The draft is ready and shown to them before they sign. Now, who prepares the draft?

MR. SUAREZ: The people themselves, Madam President.

MR. RODRIGO: No, because before they sign there is already a draft shown to them and they are asked whether or not they want to propose this constitutional amendment.

MR. SUAREZ: As it is envisioned, any Filipino can prepare that proposal and pass it around for signature.[13] (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the framers of the Constitution intended that the “draft of the proposed constitutional amendment” should be “ready and shown” to the people “before” they sign such proposal. The framers plainly stated that “before they sign there is already a draft shown to them.” The framers also “envisioned” that the people should sign on the proposal itself because the proponents must “prepare that proposal and pass it around for signature.”

The essence of amendments “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition” is that the entire proposal on its face is a petition by the people. This means two essential elements must be present. First, the people must author and thus sign the entire proposal. No agent or representative can sign on their behalf. Second, as an initiative upon a petition, the proposal must be embodied in a petition.

These essential elements are present only if the full text of the proposed amendments is first shown to the people who express their assent by signing such complete proposal in a petition. Thus, an amendment is “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition” only if the people sign on a petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments.

The full text of the proposed amendments may be either written on the face of the petition, or attached to it. If so attached, the petition must state the fact of such attachment. This is an assurance that every one of the several millions of signatories to the petition had seen the full text of the proposed amendments before signing. Otherwise, it is physically impossible, given the time constraint, to prove that every one of the millions of signatories had seen the full text of the proposed amendments before signing.

The framers of the Constitution directly borrowed[14] the concept of people’s initiative from the United States where various State constitutions incorporate an initiative clause. In almost all States[15] 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.[16]

The rationale for this requirement has been repeatedly explained in several decisions of various courts. Thus, in Capezzuto v. State Ballot Commission, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, declared:

[A] signature requirement would be meaningless if the person supplying the signature has not first seen what it is that he or she is signing. Further, and more importantly, loose interpretation of the subscription requirement can pose a significant potential for fraud. A person permitted to describe orally the contents of an initiative petition to a potential signer, without the signer having actually examined the petition, could easily mislead the signer by, for example, omitting, downplaying, or even flatly misrepresenting, portions of the petition that might not be to the signer's liking. This danger seems particularly acute when, in this case, the person giving the description is the drafter of the petition, who obviously has a vested interest in seeing that it gets the requisite signatures to qualify for the ballot.[17] (Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)

Likewise, in Kerr v. Bradbury,[18] the Court of Appeals of Oregon explained:

The purposes of “full text” provisions that apply to amendments by initiative commonly are described in similar terms. x x x (The purpose of the full text requirement is to provide sufficient information so that registered voters can intelligently evaluate whether to sign the initiative petition.”); x x x (publication of full text of amended constitutional provision required because it is “essential for the elector to have x x x the section which is proposed to be added to or subtracted from. If he is to vote intelligently, he must have this knowledge. Otherwise in many instances he would be required to vote in the dark.”) (Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, “an initiative signer must be informed at the time of signing of the nature and effect of that which is proposed” and failure to do so is “deceptive and misleading” which renders the initiative void.[19]

Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution does not expressly state that the petition must set forth the full text of the proposed amendments. However, the deliberations of the framers of our Constitution clearly show that the framers intended to adopt the relevant American jurisprudence on people’s initiative. In particular, the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission explicitly reveal that the framers intended that the people must first see the full text of the proposed amendments before they sign, and that the people must sign on a petition containing such full text. Indeed, Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 6735, the Initiative and Referendum Act that the Lambino Group invokes as valid, requires that the people must sign the “petition x x x as signatories.”

The proponents of the initiative secure the signatures from the people. The proponents secure the signatures in their private capacity and not as public officials. The proponents are not disinterested parties who can impartially explain the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed amendments to the people. The proponents present favorably their proposal to the people and do not present the arguments against their proposal. The proponents, or their supporters, often pay those who gather the signatures.

Thus, there is no presumption that the proponents observed the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures. The proponents bear the burden of proving that they complied with the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures - that the petition contained, or incorporated by attachment, the full text of the proposed amendments.

The Lambino Group did not attach to their present petition with this Court a copy of the paper that the people signed as their initiative petition. The Lambino Group submitted to this Court a copy of a signature sheet[20] after the oral arguments of 26 September 2006 when they filed their Memorandum on 11 October 2006. The signature sheet with this Court during the oral arguments was the signature sheet attached[21] to the opposition in intervention filed on 7 September 2006 by intervenor Atty. Pete Quirino-Quadra.

The signature sheet attached to Atty. Quadra’s opposition and the signature sheet attached to the Lambino Group’s Memorandum are the same. We reproduce below the signature sheet in full:

Province:

City/Municipality:

No. of

Verified

Signatures:


Legislative District:

Barangay:


PROPOSITION: “DO YOU APPROVE OF THE AMENDMENT OF ARTICLES VI AND VII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION, CHANGING THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT FROM THE PRESENT BICAMERAL-PRESIDENTIAL TO A UNICAMERAL-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT, IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE GREATER EFFICIENCY, SIMPLICITY AND ECONOMY IN GOVERNMENT; AND PROVIDING AN ARTICLE XVIII AS TRANSITORY PROVISIONS FOR THE ORDERLY SHIFT FROM ONE SYSTEM TO ANOTHER?”

I hereby APPROVE the proposed amendment to the 1987 Constitution. My signature herein which shall form part of the petition for initiative to amend the Constitution signifies my support for the filing thereof.


Precinct Number

Name

Last Name, First Name, M.I.

Address

Birthdate

MM/DD/YY

Signature

Verification

1







2







3







4







5







6







7







8







9







10







_________________ _________________ __________________

Barangay Official Witness Witness

(Print Name and Sign) (Print Name and Sign) (Print Name and Sign)

There is not a single word, phrase, or sentence of text of the Lambino Group’s proposed changes in the signature sheet. Neither does the signature sheet state that the text of the proposed changes is attached to it. Petitioner Atty. Raul Lambino admitted this during the oral arguments before this Court on 26 September 2006.

The signature sheet merely asks a question whether the people approve a shift from the Bicameral-Presidential to the Unicameral-Parliamentary system of government. The signature sheet does not show to the people the draft of the proposed changes before they are asked to sign the signature sheet. Clearly, the signature sheet is not the “petition” that the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they formulated the initiative clause in Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution.

Petitioner Atty. Lambino, however, explained that during the signature-gathering from February to August 2006, the Lambino Group circulated, together with the signature sheets, printed copies of the Lambino Group’s draft petition which they later filed on 25 August 2006 with the COMELEC. When asked if his group also circulated the draft of their amended petition filed on 30 August 2006 with the COMELEC, Atty. Lambino initially replied that they circulated both. However, Atty. Lambino changed his answer and stated that what his group circulated was the draft of the 30 August 2006 amended petition, not the draft of the 25 August 2006 petition.

The Lambino Group would have this Court believe that they prepared the draft of the 30 August 2006 amended petition almost seven months earlier in February 2006 when they started gathering signatures. Petitioner Erico B. Aumentado’s “Verification/Certification” of the 25 August 2006 petition, as well as of the 30 August 2006 amended petition, filed with the COMELEC, states as follows:

I have caused the preparation of the foregoing [Amended] Petition in my personal capacity as a registered voter, for and on behalf of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, as shown by ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 hereto attached, and as representative of the mass of signatories hereto. (Emphasis supplied)

The Lambino Group failed to attach a copy of ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 to the present petition. However, the “Official Website of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines[22] has posted the full text of Resolution No. 2006-02, which provides:

RESOLUTION NO. 2006-02

RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE PROPOSALS OF THE PEOPLE’S CONSULTATIVE COMMISSION ON CHARTER CHANGE THROUGH PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM AS A MODE OF AMENDING THE 1987 CONSTITUTION

WHEREAS, there is a need for the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) to adopt a common stand on the approach to support the proposals of the People’s Consultative Commission on Charter Change;

WHEREAS, ULAP maintains its unqualified support to the agenda of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for constitutional reforms as embodied in the ULAP Joint Declaration for Constitutional Reforms signed by the members of the ULAP and the majority coalition of the House of Representatives in Manila Hotel sometime in October 2005;

WHEREAS, the People’s Consultative Commission on Charter Change created by Her Excellency to recommend amendments to the 1987 Constitution has submitted its final report sometime in December 2005;

WHEREAS, the ULAP is mindful of the current political developments in Congress which militates against the use of the expeditious form of amending the 1987 Constitution;

WHEREAS, subject to the ratification of its institutional members and the failure of Congress to amend the Constitution as a constituent assembly, ULAP has unanimously agreed to pursue the constitutional reform agenda through People’s Initiative and Referendum without prejudice to other pragmatic means to pursue the same;

WHEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, THAT ALL THE MEMBER-LEAGUES OF THE UNION OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (ULAP) SUPPORT THE PORPOSALS (SIC) OF THE PEOPLE’S CONSULATATIVE (SIC) COMMISSION ON CHARTER CHANGE THROUGH PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM AS A MODE OF AMENDING THE 1987 CONSTITUTION;

DONE, during the ULAP National Executive Board special meeting held on 14 January 2006 at the Century Park Hotel, Manila.[23] (Underscoring supplied)

ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 does not authorize petitioner Aumentado to prepare the 25 August 2006 petition, or the 30 August 2006 amended petition, filed with the COMELEC. ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 support(s) the porposals (sic) of the Consulatative (sic) Commission on Charter Change through people’s initiative and referendum as a mode of amending the 1987 Constitution.” The proposals of the Consultative Commission[24] are vastly different from the proposed changes of the Lambino Group in the 25 August 2006 petition or 30 August 2006 amended petition filed with the COMELEC.

For example, the proposed revisions of the Consultative Commission affect all provisions of the existing Constitution, from the Preamble to the Transitory Provisions. The proposed revisions have profound impact on the Judiciary and the National Patrimony provisions of the existing Constitution, provisions that the Lambino Group’s proposed changes do not touch. The Lambino Group’s proposed changes purport to affect only Articles VI and VII of the existing Constitution, including the introduction of new Transitory Provisions.

The ULAP adopted Resolution No. 2006-02 on 14 January 2006 or more than six months before the filing of the 25 August 2006 petition or the 30 August 2006 amended petition with the COMELEC. However, ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 does not establish that ULAP or the Lambino Group caused the circulation of the draft petition, together with the signature sheets, six months before the filing with the COMELEC. On the contrary, ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 casts grave doubt on the Lambino Group’s claim that they circulated the draft petition together with the signature sheets. ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 does not refer at all to the draft petition or to the Lambino Group’s proposed changes.

In their Manifestation explaining their amended petition before the COMELEC, the Lambino Group declared:

After the Petition was filed, Petitioners belatedly realized that the proposed amendments alleged in the Petition, more specifically, paragraph 3 of Section 4 and paragraph 2 of Section 5 of the Transitory Provisions were inaccurately stated and failed to correctly reflect their proposed amendments.

The Lambino Group did not allege that they were amending the petition because the amended petition was what they had shown to the people during the February to August 2006 signature-gathering. Instead, the Lambino Group alleged that the petition of 25 August 2006 “inaccurately stated and failed to correctly reflect their proposed amendments.”

The Lambino Group never alleged in the 25 August 2006 petition or the 30 August 2006 amended petition with the COMELEC that they circulated printed copies of the draft petition together with the signature sheets. Likewise, the Lambino Group did not allege in their present petition before this Court that they circulated printed copies of the draft petition together with the signature sheets. The signature sheets do not also contain any indication that the draft petition is attached to, or circulated with, the signature sheets.

It is only in their Consolidated Reply to the Opposition-in-Interventions that the Lambino Group first claimed that they circulated the “petition for initiative filed with the COMELEC,” thus:

[T]here is persuasive authority to the effect that “(w)here there is not (sic) fraud, a signer who did not read the measure attached to a referendum petition cannot question his signature on the ground that he did not understand the nature of the act.” [82 C.J.S. S128h. Mo. State v. Sullivan, 224, S.W. 327, 283 Mo. 546.] Thus, the registered voters who signed the signature sheets circulated together with the petition for initiative filed with the COMELEC below, are presumed to have understood the proposition contained in the petition. (Emphasis supplied)

The Lambino Group’s statement that they circulated to the people “the petition for initiative filed with the COMELEC” appears an afterthought, made after the intervenors Integrated Bar of the Philippines (Cebu City Chapter and Cebu Province Chapters) and Atty. Quadra had pointed out that the signature sheets did not contain the text of the proposed changes. In their Consolidated Reply, the Lambino Group alleged that they circulated “the petition for initiative” but failed to mention the amended petition. This contradicts what Atty. Lambino finally stated during the oral arguments that what they circulated was the draft of the amended petition of 30 August 2006.

The Lambino Group cites as authority Corpus Juris Secundum, stating that “a signer who did not read the measure attached to a referendum petition cannot question his signature on the ground that he did not understand the nature of the act.” The Lambino Group quotes an authority that cites a proposed change attached to the petition signed by the people. Even the authority the Lambino Group quotes requires that the proposed change must be attached to the petition. The same authority the Lambino Group quotes requires the people to sign on the petition itself.

Indeed, it is basic in American jurisprudence that the proposed amendment must be incorporated with, or attached to, the initiative petition signed by the people. In the present initiative, the Lambino Group’s proposed changes were not incorporated with, or attached to, the signature sheets. The Lambino Group’s citation of Corpus Juris Secundum pulls the rug from under their feet.

It is extremely doubtful that the Lambino Group prepared, printed, circulated, from February to August 2006 during the signature-gathering period, the draft of the petition or amended petition they filed later with the COMELEC. The Lambino Group are less than candid with this Court in their belated claim that they printed and circulated, together with the signature sheets, the petition or amended petition. Nevertheless, even assuming the Lambino Group circulated the amended petition during the signature-gathering period, the Lambino Group admitted circulating only very limited copies of the petition.

During the oral arguments, Atty. Lambino expressly admitted that they printed only 100,000 copies of the draft petition they filed more than six months later with the COMELEC. Atty. Lambino added that he also asked other supporters to print additional copies of the draft petition but he could not state with certainty how many additional copies the other supporters printed. Atty. Lambino could only assure this Court of the printing of 100,000 copies because he himself caused the printing of these 100,000 copies.

Likewise, in the Lambino Group’s Memorandum filed on 11 October 2006, the Lambino Group expressly admit thatpetitioner Lambino initiated the printing and reproduction of 100,000 copies of the petition for initiative x x x.”[25] This admission binds the Lambino Group and establishes beyond any doubt that the Lambino Group failed to show the full text of the proposed changes to the great majority of the people who signed the signature sheets.

Thus, of the 6.3 million signatories, only 100,000 signatories could have received with certainty one copy each of the petition, assuming a 100 percent distribution with no wastage. If Atty. Lambino and company attached one copy of the petition to each signature sheet, only 100,000 signature sheets could have circulated with the petition. Each signature sheet contains space for ten signatures. Assuming ten people signed each of these 100,000 signature sheets with the attached petition, the maximum number of people who saw the petition before they signed the signature sheets would not exceed 1,000,000.

With only 100,000 printed copies of the petition, it would be physically impossible for all or a great majority of the 6.3 million signatories to have seen the petition before they signed the signature sheets. The inescapable conclusion is that the Lambino Group failed to show to the 6.3 million signatories the full text of the proposed changes. If ever, not more than one million signatories saw the petition before they signed the signature sheets.

In any event, the Lambino Group’s signature sheets do not contain the full text of the proposed changes, either on the face of the signature sheets, or as attachment with an indication in the signature sheet of such attachment. Petitioner Atty. Lambino admitted this during the oral arguments, and this admission binds the Lambino Group. This fact is also obvious from a mere reading of the signature sheet. This omission is fatal. The failure to so include the text of the proposed changes in the signature sheets renders the initiative void for non-compliance with the constitutional requirement that the amendment must be “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition.” The signature sheet is not the “petition” envisioned in the initiative clause of the Constitution.

For sure, the great majority of the 6.3 million people who signed the signature sheets did not see the full text of the proposed changes before signing. They could not have known the nature and effect of the proposed changes, among which are:

1. The term limits on members of the legislature will be lifted and thus members of Parliament can be re-elected indefinitely;[26]

2. The interim Parliament can continue to function indefinitely until its members, who are almost all the present members of Congress, decide to call for new parliamentary elections. Thus, the members of the interim Parliament will determine the expiration of their own term of office; [27]

3. Within 45 days from the ratification of the proposed changes, the interim Parliament shall convene to propose further amendments or revisions to the Constitution.[28]

These three specific amendments are not stated or even indicated in the Lambino Group’s signature sheets. The people who signed the signature sheets had no idea that they were proposing these amendments. These three proposed changes are highly controversial. The people could not have inferred or divined these proposed changes merely from a reading or rereading of the contents of the signature sheets.

During the oral arguments, petitioner Atty. Lambino stated that he and his group assured the people during the signature-gathering that the elections for the regular Parliament would be held during the 2007 local elections if the proposed changes were ratified before the 2007 local elections. However, the text of the proposed changes belies this.

The proposed Section 5(2), Article XVIII on Transitory Provisions, as found in the amended petition, states:

Section 5(2). The interim Parliament shall provide for the election of the members of Parliament, which shall be synchronized and held simultaneously with the election of all local government officials. x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Section 5(2) does not state that the elections for the regular Parliament will be held simultaneously with the 2007 local elections. This section merely requires that the elections for the regular Parliament shall be held simultaneously with the local elections without specifying the year.

Petitioner Atty. Lambino, who claims to be the principal drafter of the proposed changes, could have easily written the word “next” before the phrase “election of all local government officials.” This would have insured that the elections for the regular Parliament would be held in the next local elections following the ratification of the proposed changes. However, the absence of the word “next” allows the interim Parliament to schedule the elections for the regular Parliament simultaneously with any future local elections.

Thus, the members of the interim Parliament will decide the expiration of their own term of office. This allows incumbent members of the House of Representatives to hold office beyond their current three-year term of office, and possibly even beyond the five-year term of office of regular members of the Parliament. Certainly, this is contrary to the representations of Atty. Lambino and his group to the 6.3 million people who signed the signature sheets. Atty. Lambino and his group deceived the 6.3 million signatories, and even the entire nation.

This lucidly shows the absolute need for the people to sign an initiative petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments to avoid fraud or misrepresentation. In the present initiative, the 6.3 million signatories had to rely on the verbal representations of Atty. Lambino and his group because the signature sheets did not contain the full text of the proposed changes. The result is a grand deception on the 6.3 million signatories who were led to believe that the proposed changes would require the holding in 2007 of elections for the regular Parliament simultaneously with the local elections.

The Lambino Group’s initiative springs another surprise on the people who signed the signature sheets. The proposed changes mandate the interim Parliament to make further amendments or revisions to the Constitution. The proposed Section 4(4), Article XVIII on Transitory Provisions, provides:

Section 4(4). Within forty-five days from ratification of these amendments, the interim Parliament shall convene to propose amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution consistent with the principles of local autonomy, decentralization and a strong bureaucracy. (Emphasis supplied)

During the oral arguments, Atty. Lambino stated that this provision is a “surplusage” and the Court and the people should simply ignore it. Far from being a surplusage, this provision invalidates the Lambino Group’s initiative.

Section 4(4) is a subject matter totally unrelated to the shift from the Bicameral-Presidential to the Unicameral-Parliamentary system. American jurisprudence on initiatives outlaws this as logrolling - when the initiative petition incorporates an unrelated subject matter in the same petition. This puts the people in a dilemma since they can answer only either yes or no to the entire proposition, forcing them to sign a petition that effectively contains two propositions, one of which they may find unacceptable.

Under American jurisprudence, the effect of logrolling is to nullify the entire proposition and not only the unrelated subject matter. Thus, in Fine v. Firestone,[29] the Supreme Court of Florida declared:

Combining multiple propositions into one proposal constitutes “logrolling,” which, if our judicial responsibility is to mean anything, we cannot permit. The very broadness of the proposed amendment amounts to logrolling because the electorate cannot know what it is voting on - the amendment’s proponents’ simplistic explanation reveals only the tip of the iceberg. x x x x The ballot must give the electorate fair notice of the proposed amendment being voted on. x x x x The ballot language in the instant case fails to do that. The very broadness of the proposal makes it impossible to state what it will affect and effect and violates the requirement that proposed amendments embrace only one subject. (Emphasis supplied)

Logrolling confuses and even deceives the people. In Yute Air Alaska v. McAlpine,[30] the Supreme Court of Alaska warned against “inadvertence, stealth and fraud” in logrolling:

Whenever a bill becomes law through the initiative process, all of the problems that the single-subject rule was enacted to prevent are exacerbated. There is a greater danger of logrolling, or the deliberate intermingling of issues to increase the likelihood of an initiative’s passage, and there is a greater opportunity for “inadvertence, stealth and fraud” in the enactment-by-initiative process. The drafters of an initiative operate independently of any structured or supervised process. They often emphasize particular provisions of their proposition, while remaining silent on other (more complex or less appealing) provisions, when communicating to the public. x x x Indeed, initiative promoters typically use simplistic advertising to present their initiative to potential petition-signers and eventual voters. Many voters will never read the full text of the initiative before the election. More importantly, there is no process for amending or splitting the several provisions in an initiative proposal. These difficulties clearly distinguish the initiative from the legislative process. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, the present initiative appears merely a preliminary step for further amendments or revisions to be undertaken by the interim Parliament as a constituent assembly. The people who signed the signature sheets could not have known that their signatures would be used to propose an amendment mandating the interim Parliament to propose further amendments or revisions to the Constitution.

Apparently, the Lambino Group inserted the proposed Section 4(4) to compel the interim Parliament to amend or revise again the Constitution within 45 days from ratification of the proposed changes, or before the May 2007 elections. In the absence of the proposed Section 4(4), the interim Parliament has the discretion whether to amend or revise again the Constitution. With the proposed Section 4(4), the initiative proponents want the interim Parliament mandated to immediately amend or revise again the Constitution.

However, the signature sheets do not explain the reason for this rush in amending or revising again so soon the Constitution. The signature sheets do not also explain what specific amendments or revisions the initiative proponents want the interim Parliament to make, and why there is a need for such further amendments or revisions. The people are again left in the dark to fathom the nature and effect of the proposed changes. Certainly, such an initiative is not “directly proposed by the people” because the people do not even know the nature and effect of the proposed changes.

There is another intriguing provision inserted in the Lambino Group’s amended petition of 30 August 2006. The proposed Section 4(3) of the Transitory Provisions states:

Section 4(3). Senators whose term of office ends in 2010 shall be members of Parliament until noon of the thirtieth day of June 2010.

After 30 June 2010, not one of the present Senators will remain as member of Parliament if the interim Parliament does not schedule elections for the regular Parliament by 30 June 2010. However, there is no counterpart provision for the present members of the House of Representatives even if their term of office will all end on 30 June 2007, three years earlier than that of half of the present Senators. Thus, all the present members of the House will remain members of the interim Parliament after 30 June 2010.

The term of the incumbent President ends on 30 June 2010. Thereafter, the Prime Minister exercises all the powers of the President. If the interim Parliament does not schedule elections for the regular Parliament by 30 June 2010, the Prime Minister will come only from the present members of the House of Representatives to the exclusion of the present Senators.

The signature sheets do not explain this discrimination against the Senators. The 6.3 million people who signed the signature sheets could not have known that their signatures would be used to discriminate against the Senators. They could not have known that their signatures would be used to limit, after 30 June 2010, the interim Parliament’s choice of Prime Minister only to members of the existing House of Representatives.

An initiative that gathers signatures from the people without first showing to the people the full text of the proposed amendments is most likely a deception, and can operate as a gigantic fraud on the people. That is why the Constitution requires that an initiative must be “directly proposed by the people x x x in a petition” - meaning that the people must sign on a petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments. On so vital an issue as amending the nation’s fundamental law, the writing of the text of the proposed amendments cannot be hidden from the people under a general or special power of attorney to unnamed, faceless, and unelected individuals.

The Constitution entrusts to the people the power to directly propose amendments to the Constitution. This Court trusts the wisdom of the people even if the members of this Court do not personally know the people who sign the petition. However, this trust emanates from a fundamental assumption: the full text of the proposed amendment is first shown to the people before they sign the petition, not after they have signed the petition.

In short, the Lambino Group’s initiative is void and unconstitutional because it dismally fails to comply with the requirement of Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution that the initiative must be “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition.”

2. The Initiative Violates Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution Disallowing Revision through Initiatives

A people’s initiative to change the Constitution applies only to an amendment of the Constitution and not to its revision. In contrast, Congress or a constitutional convention can propose both amendments and revisions to the Constitution. Article XVII of the Constitution provides:

ARTICLE XVII

AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS

Sec. 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or

(2) A constitutional convention.

Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative x x x. (Emphasis supplied)

Article XVII of the Constitution speaks of three modes of amending the Constitution. The first mode is through Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its Members. The second mode is through a constitutional convention. The third mode is through a people’s initiative.

Section 1 of Article XVII, referring to the first and second modes, applies to “[A]ny amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution.” In contrast, Section 2 of Article XVII, referring to the third mode, applies only to “[A]mendments to this Constitution.” This distinction was intentional as shown by the following deliberations of the Constitutional Commission:

MR. SUAREZ: Thank you, Madam President.

May we respectfully call the attention of the Members of the Commission that pursuant to the mandate given to us last night, we submitted this afternoon a complete Committee Report No. 7 which embodies the proposed provision governing the matter of initiative. This is now covered by Section 2 of the complete committee report. With the permission of the Members, may I quote Section 2:

The people may, after five years from the date of the last plebiscite held, directly propose amendments to this Constitution thru initiative upon petition of at least ten percent of the registered voters.

This completes the blanks appearing in the original Committee Report No. 7. This proposal was suggested on the theory that this matter of initiative, which came about because of the extraordinary developments this year, has to be separated from the traditional modes of amending the Constitution as embodied in Section 1. The committee members felt that this system of initiative should be limited to amendments to the Constitution and should not extend to the revision of the entire Constitution, so we removed it from the operation of Section 1 of the proposed Article on Amendment or Revision. x x x x

x x x x

MS. AQUINO: [I] am seriously bothered by providing this process of initiative as a separate section in the Article on Amendment. Would the sponsor be amenable to accepting an amendment in terms of realigning Section 2 as another subparagraph (c) of Section 1, instead of setting it up as another separate section as if it were a self-executing provision?

MR. SUAREZ: We would be amenable except that, as we clarified a while ago, this process of initiative is limited to the matter of amendment and should not expand into a revision which contemplates a total overhaul of the Constitution. That was the sense that was conveyed by the Committee.

MS. AQUINO: In other words, the Committee was attempting to distinguish the coverage of modes (a) and (b) in Section 1 to include the process of revision; whereas, the process of initiation to amend, which is given to the public, would only apply to amendments?

MR. SUAREZ: That is right. Those were the terms envisioned in the Committee.

MS. AQUINO: I thank the sponsor; and thank you, Madam President.

x x x x

MR. MAAMBONG: My first question: Commissioner Davide's proposed amendment on line 1 refers to "amendments." Does it not cover the word "revision" as defined by Commissioner Padilla when he made the distinction between the words "amendments" and "revision"?

MR. DAVIDE: No, it does not, because "amendments" and "revision" should be covered by Section 1. So insofar as initiative is concerned, it can only relate to "amendments" not "revision."

MR. MAAMBONG: Thank you.[31] (Emphasis supplied)

There can be no mistake about it. The framers of the Constitution intended, and wrote, a clear distinction between “amendment” and “revision” of the Constitution. The framers intended, and wrote, that only Congress or a constitutional convention may propose revisions to the Constitution. The framers intended, and wrote, that a people’s initiative may propose only amendments to the Constitution. Where the intent and language of the Constitution clearly withhold from the people the power to propose revisions to the Constitution, the people cannot propose revisions even as they are empowered to propose amendments.

This has been the consistent ruling of state supreme courts in the United States. Thus, in McFadden v. Jordan,[32] the Supreme Court of California ruled:

The initiative power reserved by the people by amendment to the Constitution x x x applies only to the proposing and the adopting or rejecting of ‘laws and amendments to the Constitution’ and does not purport to extend to a constitutional revision. x x x x It is thus clear that a revision of the Constitution may be accomplished only through ratification by the people of a revised constitution proposed by a convention called for that purpose as outlined hereinabove. Consequently if the scope of the proposed initiative measure (hereinafter termed ‘the measure’) now before us is so broad that if such measure became law a substantial revision of our present state Constitution would be effected, then the measure may not properly be submitted to the electorate until and unless it is first agreed upon by a constitutional convention, and the writ sought by petitioner should issue. x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Likewise, the Supreme Court of Oregon ruled in Holmes v. Appling:[33]

It is well established that when a constitution specifies the manner in which it may be amended or revised, it can be altered by those who favor amendments, revision, or other change only through the use of one of the specified means. The constitution itself recognizes that there is a difference between an amendment and a revision; and it is obvious from an examination of the measure here in question that it is not an amendment as that term is generally understood and as it is used in Article IV, Section 1. The document appears to be based in large part on the revision of the constitution drafted by the ‘Commission for Constitutional Revision’ authorized by the 1961 Legislative Assembly, x x x and submitted to the 1963 Legislative Assembly. It failed to receive in the Assembly the two-third's majority vote of both houses required by Article XVII, Section 2, and hence failed of adoption, x x x.

While differing from that document in material respects, the measure sponsored by the plaintiffs is, nevertheless, a thorough overhauling of the present constitution x x x.

To call it an amendment is a misnomer.

Whether it be a revision or a new constitution, it is not such a measure as can be submitted to the people through the initiative. If a revision, it is subject to the requirements of Article XVII, Section 2(1); if a new constitution, it can only be proposed at a convention called in the manner provided in Article XVII, Section 1. x x x x

Similarly, in this jurisdiction there can be no dispute that a people’s initiative can only propose amendments to the Constitution since the Constitution itself limits initiatives to amendments. There can be no deviation from the constitutionally prescribed modes of revising the Constitution. A popular clamor, even one backed by 6.3 million signatures, cannot justify a deviation from the specific modes prescribed in the Constitution itself.

As the Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled in In re Initiative Petition No. 364:[34]

It is a fundamental principle that a constitution can only be revised or amended in the manner prescribed by the instrument itself, and that any attempt to revise a constitution in a manner other than the one provided in the instrument is almost invariably treated as extra-constitutional and revolutionary. x x x x “While it is universally conceded that the people are sovereign and that they have power to adopt a constitution and to change their own work at will, they must, in doing so, act in an orderly manner and according to the settled principles of constitutional law. And where the people, in adopting a constitution, have prescribed the method by which the people may alter or amend it, an attempt to change the fundamental law in violation of the self-imposed restrictions, is unconstitutional.” x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

This Court, whose members are sworn to defend and protect the Constitution, cannot shirk from its solemn oath and duty to insure compliance with the clear command of the Constitution that a people’s initiative may only amend, never revise, the Constitution.

The question is, does the Lambino Group’s initiative constitute an amendment or revision of the Constitution? If the Lambino Group’s initiative constitutes a revision, then the present petition should be dismissed for being outside the scope of Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution.

Courts have long recognized the distinction between an amendment and a revision of a constitution. One of the earliest cases that recognized the distinction described the fundamental difference in this manner:

[T]he very term “constitution” implies an instrument of a permanent and abiding nature, and the provisions contained therein for its revision indicate the will of the people that the underlying principles upon which it rests, as well as the substantial entirety of the instrument, shall be of a like permanent and abiding nature. On the other hand, the significance of the term “amendment” implies such an addition or change within the lines of the original instrument as will effect an improvement, or better carry out the purpose for which it was framed.[35] (Emphasis supplied)

Revision broadly implies a change that alters a basic principle in the constitution, like altering the principle of separation of powers or the system of checks-and-balances. There is also revision if the change alters the substantial entirety of the constitution, as when the change affects substantial provisions of the constitution. On the other hand, amendment broadly refers to a change that adds, reduces, or deletes without altering the basic principle involved. Revision generally affects several provisions of the constitution, while amendment generally affects only the specific provision being amended.

In California where the initiative clause allows amendments but not revisions to the constitution just like in our Constitution, courts have developed a two-part test: the quantitative test and the qualitative test. The quantitative test asks whether the proposed change is “so extensive in its provisions as to change directly the ‘substantial entirety’ of the constitution by the deletion or alteration of numerous existing provisions.”[36] The court examines only the number of provisions affected and does not consider the degree of the change.

The qualitative test inquires into the qualitative effects of the proposed change in the constitution. The main inquiry is whether the change will “accomplish such far reaching changes in the nature of our basic governmental plan as to amount to a revision.”[37] Whether there is an alteration in the structure of government is a proper subject of inquiry. Thus, “a change in the nature of [the] basic governmental plan” includes “change in its fundamental framework or the fundamental powers of its Branches.”[38] A change in the nature of the basic governmental plan also includes changes that “jeopardize the traditional form of government and the system of check and balances.”[39]

Under both the quantitative and qualitative tests, the Lambino Group’s initiative is a revision and not merely an amendment. Quantitatively, the Lambino Group’s proposed changes overhaul two articles - Article VI on the Legislature and Article VII on the Executive - affecting a total of 105 provisions in the entire Constitution.[40] Qualitatively, the proposed changes alter substantially the basic plan of government, from presidential to parliamentary, and from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature.

A change in the structure of government is a revision of the Constitution, as when the three great co-equal branches of government in the present Constitution are reduced into two. This alters the separation of powers in the Constitution. A shift from the present Bicameral-Presidential system to a Unicameral-Parliamentary system is a revision of the Constitution. Merging the legislative and executive branches is a radical change in the structure of government.

The abolition alone of the Office of the President as the locus of Executive Power alters the separation of powers and thus constitutes a revision of the Constitution. Likewise, the abolition alone of one chamber of Congress alters the system of checks-and-balances within the legislature and constitutes a revision of the Constitution.

By any legal test and under any jurisdiction, a shift from a Bicameral-Presidential to a Unicameral-Parliamentary system, involving the abolition of the Office of the President and the abolition of one chamber of Congress, is beyond doubt a revision, not a mere amendment. On the face alone of the Lambino Group’s proposed changes, it is readily apparent that the changes will radically alter the framework of government as set forth in the Constitution. Father Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a leading member of the Constitutional Commission, writes:

An amendment envisages an alteration of one or a few specific and separable provisions. The guiding original intention of an amendment is to improve specific parts or to add new provisions deemed necessary to meet new conditions or to suppress specific portions that may have become obsolete or that are judged to be dangerous. In revision, however, the guiding original intention and plan contemplates a re-examination of the entire document, or of provisions of the document which have over-all implications for the entire document, to determine how and to what extent they should be altered. Thus, for instance a switch from the presidential system to a parliamentary system would be a revision because of its over-all impact on the entire constitutional structure. So would a switch from a bicameral system to a unicameral system be because of its effect on other important provisions of the Constitution.[41] (Emphasis supplied)

In Adams v. Gunter,[42] an initiative petition proposed the amendment of the Florida State constitution to shift from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature. The issue turned on whether the initiative “was defective and unauthorized where [the] proposed amendment would x x x affect several other provisions of [the] Constitution.” The Supreme Court of Florida, striking down the initiative as outside the scope of the initiative clause, ruled as follows:

The proposal here to amend Section 1 of Article III of the 1968 Constitution to provide for a Unicameral Legislature affects not only many other provisions of the Constitution but provides for a change in the form of the legislative branch of government, which has been in existence in the United States Congress and in all of the states of the nation, except one, since the earliest days. It would be difficult to visualize a more revolutionary change. The concept of a House and a Senate is basic in the American form of government. It would not only radically change the whole pattern of government in this state and tear apart the whole fabric of the Constitution, but would even affect the physical facilities necessary to carry on government.

x x x x

We conclude with the observation that if such proposed amendment were adopted by the people at the General Election and if the Legislature at its next session should fail to submit further amendments to revise and clarify the numerous inconsistencies and conflicts which would result, or if after submission of appropriate amendments the people should refuse to adopt them, simple chaos would prevail in the government of this State. The same result would obtain from an amendment, for instance, of Section 1 of Article V, to provide for only a Supreme Court and Circuit Courts-and there could be other examples too numerous to detail. These examples point unerringly to the answer.

The purpose of the long and arduous work of the hundreds of men and women and many sessions of the Legislature in bringing about the Constitution of 1968 was to eliminate inconsistencies and conflicts and to give the State a workable, accordant, homogenous and up-to-date document. All of this could disappear very quickly if we were to hold that it could be amended in the manner proposed in the initiative petition here.[43] (Emphasis supplied)

The rationale of the Adams decision applies with greater force to the present petition. The Lambino Group’s initiative not only seeks a shift from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature, it also seeks to merge the executive and legislative departments. The initiative in Adams did not even touch the executive department.

In Adams, the Supreme Court of Florida enumerated 18 sections of the Florida Constitution that would be affected by the shift from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature. In the Lambino Group’s present initiative, no less than 105 provisions of the Constitution would be affected based on the count of Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr.[44] There is no doubt that the Lambino Group’s present initiative seeks far more radical changes in the structure of government than the initiative in Adams.

The Lambino Group theorizes that the difference between “amendment” and “revision” is only one of procedure, not of substance. The Lambino Group posits that when a deliberative body drafts and proposes changes to the Constitution, substantive changes are called “revisions” because members of the deliberative body work full-time on the changes. However, the same substantive changes, when proposed through an initiative, are called “amendments” because the changes are made by ordinary people who do not make an “occupation, profession, or vocation” out of such endeavor.

Thus, the Lambino Group makes the following exposition of their theory in their Memorandum:

99. With this distinction in mind, we note that the constitutional provisions expressly provide for both “amendment” and “revision” when it speaks of legislators and constitutional delegates, while the same provisions expressly provide only for “amendment” when it speaks of the people. It would seem that the apparent distinction is based on the actual experience of the people, that on one hand the common people in general are not expected to work full-time on the matter of correcting the constitution because that is not their occupation, profession or vocation; while on the other hand, the legislators and constitutional convention delegates are expected to work full-time on the same matter because that is their occupation, profession or vocation. Thus, the difference between the words “revision” and “amendment” pertain only to the process or procedure of coming up with the corrections, for purposes of interpreting the constitutional provisions.

100. Stated otherwise, the difference between “amendment” and “revision” cannot reasonably be in the substance or extent of the correction. x x x x (Underlining in the original; boldfacing supplied)

The Lambino Group in effect argues that if Congress or a constitutional convention had drafted the same proposed changes that the Lambino Group wrote in the present initiative, the changes would constitute a revision of the Constitution. Thus, the Lambino Group concedes that the proposed changes in the present initiative constitute a revision if Congress or a constitutional convention had drafted the changes. However, since the Lambino Group as private individuals drafted the proposed changes, the changes are merely amendments to the Constitution. The Lambino Group trivializes the serious matter of changing the fundamental law of the land.

The express intent of the framers and the plain language of the Constitution contradict the Lambino Group’s theory. Where the intent of the framers and the language of the Constitution are clear and plainly stated, courts do not deviate from such categorical intent and language.[45] Any theory espousing a construction contrary to such intent and language deserves scant consideration. More so, if such theory wreaks havoc by creating inconsistencies in the form of government established in the Constitution. Such a theory, devoid of any jurisprudential mooring and inviting inconsistencies in the Constitution, only exposes the flimsiness of the Lambino Group’s position. Any theory advocating that a proposed change involving a radical structural change in government does not constitute a revision justly deserves rejection.

The Lambino Group simply recycles a theory that initiative proponents in American jurisdictions have attempted to advance without any success. In Lowe v. Keisling,[46] the Supreme Court of Oregon rejected this theory, thus:

Mabon argues that Article XVII, section 2, does not apply to changes to the constitution proposed by initiative. His theory is that Article XVII, section 2 merely provides a procedure by which the legislature can propose a revision of the constitution, but it does not affect proposed revisions initiated by the people.

Plaintiffs argue that the proposed ballot measure constitutes a wholesale change to the constitution that cannot be enacted through the initiative process. They assert that the distinction between amendment and revision is determined by reviewing the scope and subject matter of the proposed enactment, and that revisions are not limited to “a formal overhauling of the constitution.” They argue that this ballot measure proposes far reaching changes outside the lines of the original instrument, including profound impacts on existing fundamental rights and radical restructuring of the government's relationship with a defined group of citizens. Plaintiffs assert that, because the proposed ballot measure “will refashion the most basic principles of Oregon constitutional law,” the trial court correctly held that it violated Article XVII, section 2, and cannot appear on the ballot without the prior approval of the legislature.

We first address Mabon's argument that Article XVII, section 2(1), does not prohibit revisions instituted by initiative. In Holmes v. Appling, x x x, the Supreme Court concluded that a revision of the constitution may not be accomplished by initiative, because of the provisions of Article XVII, section 2. After reviewing Article XVII, section1, relating to proposed amendments, the court said:

“From the foregoing it appears that Article IV, Section 1, authorizes the use of the initiative as a means of amending the Oregon Constitution, but it contains no similar sanction for its use as a means of revising the constitution.” x x x x

It then reviewed Article XVII, section 2, relating to revisions, and said: “It is the only section of the constitution which provides the means for constitutional revision and it excludes the idea that an individual, through the initiative, may place such a measure before the electorate.” x x x x

Accordingly, we reject Mabon's argument that Article XVII, section 2, does not apply to constitutional revisions proposed by initiative. (Emphasis supplied)

Similarly, this Court must reject the Lambino Group’s theory which negates the express intent of the framers and the plain language of the Constitution.

We can visualize amendments and revisions as a spectrum, at one end green for amendments and at the other end red for revisions. Towards the middle of the spectrum, colors fuse and difficulties arise in determining whether there is an amendment or revision. The present initiative is indisputably located at the far end of the red spectrum where revision begins. The present initiative seeks a radical overhaul of the existing separation of powers among the three co-equal departments of government, requiring far-reaching amendments in several sections and articles of the Constitution.

Where the proposed change applies only to a specific provision of the Constitution without affecting any other section or article, the change may generally be considered an amendment and not a revision. For example, a change reducing the voting age from 18 years to 15 years[47] is an amendment and not a revision. Similarly, a change reducing Filipino ownership of mass media companies from 100 percent to 60 percent is an amendment and not a revision.[48] Also, a change requiring a college degree as an additional qualification for election to the Presidency is an amendment and not a revision.[49]

The changes in these examples do not entail any modification of sections or articles of the Constitution other than the specific provision being amended. These changes do not also affect the structure of government or the system of checks-and-balances among or within the three branches. These three examples are located at the far green end of the spectrum, opposite the far red end where the revision sought by the present petition is located.

However, there can be no fixed rule on whether a change is an amendment or a revision. A change in a single word of one sentence of the Constitution may be a revision and not an amendment. For example, the substitution of the word “republican” with “monarchic” or “theocratic” in Section 1, Article II[50] of the Constitution radically overhauls the entire structure of government and the fundamental ideological basis of the Constitution. Thus, each specific change will have to be examined case-by-case, depending on how it affects other provisions, as well as how it affects the structure of government, the carefully crafted system of checks-and-balances, and the underlying ideological basis of the existing Constitution.

Since a revision of a constitution affects basic principles, or several provisions of a constitution, a deliberative body with recorded proceedings is best suited to undertake a revision. A revision requires harmonizing not only several provisions, but also the altered principles with those that remain unaltered. Thus, constitutions normally authorize deliberative bodies like constituent assemblies or constitutional conventions to undertake revisions. On the other hand, constitutions allow people’s initiatives, which do not have fixed and identifiable deliberative bodies or recorded proceedings, to undertake only amendments and not revisions.

In the present initiative, the Lambino Group’s proposed Section 2 of the Transitory Provisions states:

Section 2. Upon the expiration of the term of the incumbent President and Vice President, with the exception of Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which shall hereby be amended and Sections 18 and 24 which shall be deleted, all other Sections of Article VI are hereby retained and renumbered sequentially as Section 2, ad seriatim up to 26, unless they are inconsistent with the Parliamentary system of government, in which case, they shall be amended to conform with a unicameral parliamentary form of government; x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

The basic rule in statutory construction is that if a later law is irreconcilably inconsistent with a prior law, the later law prevails. This rule also applies to construction of constitutions. However, the Lambino Group’s draft of Section 2 of the Transitory Provisions turns on its head this rule of construction by stating that in case of such irreconcilable inconsistency, the earlier provision “shall be amended to conform with a unicameral parliamentary form of government.” The effect is to freeze the two irreconcilable provisions until the earlier one “shall be amended,” which requires a future separate constitutional amendment.

Realizing the absurdity of the need for such an amendment, petitioner Atty. Lambino readily conceded during the oral arguments that the requirement of a future amendment is a “surplusage.” In short, Atty. Lambino wants to reinstate the rule of statutory construction so that the later provision automatically prevails in case of irreconcilable inconsistency. However, it is not as simple as that.

The irreconcilable inconsistency envisioned in the proposed Section 2 of the Transitory Provisions is not between a provision in Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and a provision in the proposed changes. The inconsistency is between a provision in Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the “Parliamentary system of government,” and the inconsistency shall be resolved in favor of a “unicameral parliamentary form of government.”

Now, what “unicameral parliamentary form of government” do the Lambino Group’s proposed changes refer to ― the Bangladeshi, Singaporean, Israeli, or New Zealand models, which are among the few countries with unicameral parliaments? The proposed changes could not possibly refer to the traditional and well-known parliamentary forms of government ― the British, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Canadian, Australian, or Malaysian models, which have all bicameral parliaments. Did the people who signed the signature sheets realize that they were adopting the Bangladeshi, Singaporean, Israeli, or New Zealand parliamentary form of government?

This drives home the point that the people’s initiative is not meant for revisions of the Constitution but only for amendments. A shift from the present Bicameral-Presidential to a Unicameral-Parliamentary system requires harmonizing several provisions in many articles of the Constitution. Revision of the Constitution through a people’s initiative will only result in gross absurdities in the Constitution.

In sum, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Lambino Group’s initiative is a revision and not an amendment. Thus, the present initiative is void and unconstitutional because it violates Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution limiting the scope of a people’s initiative to “[A]mendments to this Constitution.”

3. A Revisit of Santiago v. COMELEC is Not Necessary

The present petition warrants dismissal for failure to comply with the basic requirements of Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution on the conduct and scope of a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution. There is no need to revisit this Court’s ruling in Santiago declaring RA 6735 “incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions” to cover the system of initiative to amend the Constitution. An affirmation or reversal of Santiago will not change the outcome of the present petition. Thus, this Court must decline to revisit Santiago which effectively ruled that RA 6735 does not comply with the requirements of the Constitution to implement the initiative clause on amendments to the Constitution.

This Court must avoid revisiting a ruling involving the constitutionality of a statute if the case before the Court can be resolved on some other grounds. Such avoidance is a logical consequence of the well-settled doctrine that courts will not pass upon the constitutionality of a statute if the case can be resolved on some other grounds.[51]

Nevertheless, even assuming that RA 6735 is valid to implement the constitutional provision on initiatives to amend the Constitution, this will not change the result here because the present petition violates Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution. To be a valid initiative, the present initiative must first comply with Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution even before complying with RA 6735.

Even then, the present initiative violates Section 5(b) of RA 6735 which requires that the “petition for an initiative on the 1987 Constitution must have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters as signatories.” Section 5(b) of RA 6735 requires that the people must sign the “petition x x x as signatories.”

The 6.3 million signatories did not sign the petition of 25 August 2006 or the amended petition of 30 August 2006 filed with the COMELEC. Only Atty. Lambino, Atty. Demosthenes B. Donato, and Atty. Alberto C. Agra signed the petition and amended petition as counsels for “Raul L. Lambino and Erico B. Aumentado, Petitioners.” In the COMELEC, the Lambino Group, claiming to act “together with” the 6.3 million signatories, merely attached the signature sheets to the petition and amended petition. Thus, the petition and amended petition filed with the COMELEC did not even comply with the basic requirement of RA 6735 that the Lambino Group claims as valid.

The Lambino Group’s logrolling initiative also violates Section 10(a) of RA 6735 stating, “No petition embracing more than one (1) subject shall be submitted to the electorate; x x x.” The proposed Section 4(4) of the Transitory Provisions, mandating the interim Parliament to propose further amendments or revisions to the Constitution, is a subject matter totally unrelated to the shift in the form of government. Since the present initiative embraces more than one subject matter, RA 6735 prohibits submission of the initiative petition to the electorate. Thus, even if RA 6735 is valid, the Lambino Group’s initiative will still fail.

4. The COMELEC Did Not Commit Grave Abuse of Discretion in Dismissing the Lambino Group’s Initiative

In dismissing the Lambino Group’s initiative petition, the COMELEC en banc merely followed this Court’s ruling in Santiago and People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) v. COMELEC.[52] For following this Court’s ruling, no grave abuse of discretion is attributable to the COMELEC. On this ground alone, the present petition warrants outright dismissal. Thus, this Court should reiterate its unanimous ruling in PIRMA:

The Court ruled, first, by a unanimous vote, that no grave abuse of discretion could be attributed to the public respondent COMELEC in dismissing the petition filed by PIRMA therein, it appearing that it only complied with the dispositions in the Decisions of this Court in G.R. No. 127325, promulgated on March 19, 1997, and its Resolution of June 10, 1997.

5. Conclusion

The Constitution, as the fundamental law of the land, deserves the utmost respect and obedience of all the citizens of this nation. No one can trivialize the Constitution by cavalierly amending or revising it in blatant violation of the clearly specified modes of amendment and revision laid down in the Constitution itself.

To allow such change in the fundamental law is to set adrift the Constitution in unchartered waters, to be tossed and turned by every dominant political group of the day. If this Court allows today a cavalier change in the Constitution outside the constitutionally prescribed modes, tomorrow the new dominant political group that comes will demand its own set of changes in the same cavalier and unconstitutional fashion. A revolving-door constitution does not augur well for the rule of law in this country.

An overwhelming majority − 16,622,111 voters comprising 76.3 percent of the total votes cast[53] approved our Constitution in a national plebiscite held on 11 February 1987. That approval is the unmistakable voice of the people, the full expression of the people’s sovereign will. That approval included the prescribed modes for amending or revising the Constitution.

No amount of signatures, not even the 6,327,952 million signatures gathered by the Lambino Group, can change our Constitution contrary to the specific modes that the people, in their sovereign capacity, prescribed when they ratified the Constitution. The alternative is an extra-constitutional change, which means subverting the people’s sovereign will and discarding the Constitution. This is one act the Court cannot and should never do. As the ultimate guardian of the Constitution, this Court is sworn to perform its solemn duty to defend and protect the Constitution, which embodies the real sovereign will of the people.

Incantations of “people’s voice,” “people’s sovereign will,” or “let the people decide” cannot override the specific modes of changing the Constitution as prescribed in the Constitution itself. Otherwise, the Constitution ― the people’s fundamental covenant that provides enduring stability to our society ― becomes easily susceptible to manipulative changes by political groups gathering signatures through false promises. Then, the Constitution ceases to be the bedrock of the nation’s stability.

The Lambino Group claims that their initiative is the “people’s voice.” However, the Lambino Group unabashedly states in ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02, in the verification of their petition with the COMELEC, that “ULAP maintains its unqualified support to the agenda of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for constitutional reforms.” The Lambino Group thus admits that their “people’s” initiative is an “unqualified support to the agenda” of the incumbent President to change the Constitution. This forewarns the Court to be wary of incantations of “people’s voice” or “sovereign will” in the present initiative.

This Court cannot betray its primordial duty to defend and protect the Constitution. The Constitution, which embodies the people’s sovereign will, is the bible of this Court. This Court exists to defend and protect the Constitution. To allow this constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter basic principles in the Constitution is to allow a desecration of the Constitution. To allow such alteration and desecration is to lose this Court’s raison d'etre.

WHERFORE, we DISMISS the petition in G.R. No. 174153.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice



[1] Including Sigaw ng Bayan and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).

[2] This provision states: “Requirements. — x x x x

(b) A petition for an initiative on the 1987 Constitution must have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters therein. Initiative on the Constitution may be exercised only after five (5) years from the ratification of the 1987 Constitution and only once every five (5) years thereafter.

(c) The petition shall state the following:

c.1. contents or text of the proposed law sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed, as the case may be;

c.2. the proposition;

c.3. the reason or reasons therefor;

c.4. that it is not one of the exceptions provided herein;

c.5. signatures of the petitioners or registered voters; and

c.6. an abstract or summary in not more than one hundred (100) words which shall be legibly written or printed at the top of every page of the petition.”

[3] This provision states: “Verification of Signatures. — The Election Registrar shall verify the signatures on the basis of the registry list of voters, voters' affidavits and voters identification cards used in the immediately preceding election.”

[4] Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of Article VI will be changed thus:

Section 1. (1) The legislative and executive powers shall be vested in a unicameral Parliament which shall be composed of as many members as may be provided by law, to be apportioned among the provinces, representative districts, and cities in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, with at least three hundred thousand inhabitants per district, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. Each district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory, and each province must have at least one member.

(2) Each Member of Parliament shall be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-five years old on the day of the election, a resident of his district for at least one year prior thereto, and shall be elected by the qualified voters of his district for a term of five years without limitation as to the number thereof, except those under the party-list system which shall be provided for by law and whose number shall be equal to twenty per centum of the total membership coming from the parliamentary districts.

[5] Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Article VII will be changed thus:

Section 1. There shall be a President who shall be the Head of State. The executive power shall be exercised by a Prime Minister, with the assistance of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister shall be elected by a majority of all the Members of Parliament from among themselves. He shall be responsible to the Parliament for the program of government.

[6] Sections 1-5 of the Transitory Provisions read:

Section 1. (1) The incumbent President and Vice President shall serve until the expiration of their term at noon on the thirtieth day of June 2010 and shall continue to exercise their powers under the 1987 Constitution unless impeached by a vote of two thirds of all the members of the interim parliament.

(2) In case of death, permanent disability, resignation or removal from office of the incumbent President, the incumbent Vice President shall succeed as President. In case of death, permanent disability, resignation or removal from office of both the incumbent President and Vice President, the interim Prime Minister shall assume all the powers and responsibilities of Prime Minister under Article VII as amended.

Section 2. Upon the expiration of the term of the incumbent President and Vice President, with the exception of Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which shall hereby be amended and Sections 18 and 24 which shall be deleted, all other sections of Article VI are hereby retained and renumbered sequentially as Section 2, ad seriatim up to 26, unless they are inconsistent with the Parliamentary system of government, in which case, they shall be amended to conform with a unicameral parliamentary form of government; provided, however, that any and all references therein

to “Congress”, “Senate”, “House of Representatives” and “Houses of Congress” shall be changed to read “Parliament”; that any and all references therein to “Member[s] of Congress”, “Senator[s]” or “Member[s] of the House of Representatives” shall be changed to read as “Member[s] of Parliament” and any and all references to the “President” and or “Acting President” shall be changed to read “Prime Minister”.

Section 3. Upon the expiration of the term of the incumbent President and Vice President, with the exception of Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution which are hereby amended and Sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 which are hereby deleted, all other Sections of Article VII shall be retained and renumbered sequentially as Section 2, ad seriatim up to 14, unless they shall be inconsistent with Section 1 hereof, in which case they shall be deemed amended so as to conform to a unicameral Parliamentary System of government; provided however that any and all references therein to “Congress”, “Senate”, “House of Representatives” and “Houses of Congress” shall be changed to read “Parliament”; that any and all references therein to “Member[s] of Congress”, “Senator[s]” or “Member[s] of the House of Representatives” shall be changed to read as “Member[s] of Parliament” and any and all references to the “President” and or “Acting President” shall be changed to read “Prime Minister”.

Section 4. (1) There shall exist, upon the ratification of these amendments, an interim Parliament which shall continue until the Members of the regular Parliament shall have been elected and shall have qualified. It shall be composed of the incumbent Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the incumbent Members of the Cabinet who are heads of executive departments.

(2) The incumbent Vice President shall automatically be a Member of Parliament until noon of the thirtieth day of June 2010. He shall also be a member of the cabinet and shall head a ministry. He shall initially convene the interim Parliament and shall preside over its sessions for the election of the interim Prime Minister and until the Speaker shall have been elected by a majority vote of all the members of the interim Parliament from among themselves.

(3) Within forty-five days from ratification of these amendments, the interim Parliament shall convene to propose amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution consistent with the principles of local autonomy, decentralization and a strong bureaucracy.

Section 5. (1) The incumbent President, who is the Chief Executive, shall nominate, from among the members of the interim Parliament, an interim Prime Minister, who shall be elected by a majority vote of the members thereof. The interim Prime Minister shall oversee the various ministries and shall perform such powers and responsibilities as may be delegated to him by the incumbent President.

(2) The interim Parliament shall provide for the election of the members of Parliament, which shall be synchronized and held simultaneously with the election of all local government officials. Thereafter, the Vice President, as Member of Parliament, shall immediately convene the Parliament and shall initially preside over its session for the purpose of electing the Prime Minister, who shall be elected by a majority vote of all its members, from among themselves. The duly elected Prime Minister shall continue to exercise and perform the powers, duties and responsibilities of the interim Prime Minister until the expiration of the term of incumbent President and Vice President.

As revised, Article XVIII contained a new paragraph in Section 4 (paragraph 3) and a modified paragraph 2, Section 5, thus:

Section 4. x x x x

(3) Senators whose term of office ends in 2010 shall be Members of Parliament until noon of the thirtieth day of June 2010.

x x x x

Section 5. x x x x

(2) The interim Parliament shall provide for the election of the members of Parliament, which shall be synchronized and held simultaneously with the election of all local government officials. The duly elected Prime Minister shall continue to exercise and perform the powers, duties and responsibilities of the interim Prime Minister until the expiration of the term of the incumbent President and Vice President.

[8] 336 Phil. 848 (1997); Resolution dated 10 June 1997.

[9] The COMELEC held:

We agree with the Petitioners that this Commission has the solemn Constitutional duty to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of, as in this case, initiative.

This mandate, however, should be read in relation to the other provisions of the Constitution particularly on initiative.

Section 2, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution provides:

Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative, upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. x x x.

The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.

The afore-quoted provision of the Constitution being a non self-executory provision needed an enabling law for its implementation. Thus, in order to breathe life into the constitutional right of the people under a system of initiative to directly propose, enact, approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws, ordinances, or resolution, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 6735.

However, the Supreme Court, in the landmark case of Santiago vs. Commission on Elections struck down the said law for being incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned.

The Supreme Court likewise declared that this Commission should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.

Thus, even if the signatures in the instant Petition appear to meet the required minimum per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district is represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein, still the Petition cannot be given due course since the Supreme Court categorically declared R.A. No. 6735 as inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution.

This Commission is not unmindful of the transcendental importance of the right of the people under a system of initiative. However, neither can we turn a blind eye to the pronouncement of the High Court that in the absence of a valid enabling law, this right of the people remains nothing but an “empty right”, and that this Commission is permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution.

Considering the foregoing, We are therefore constrained not to entertain or give due course to the instant Petition.

[10] Arturo M. De Castro; Ronald L. Adamat, Rolando Manuel Rivera, Ruelo Baya; Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO); Trade Union Congress of the Philippines; Sulong Bayan Movement Foundation, Inc.

[11] Onevoice Inc., Christian S. Monsod, Rene B. Azurin, Manuel L. Quezon III, Benjamin T. Tolosa, Jr., Susan V. Ople and Carlos P. Medina, Jr.; Alternative Law Groups, Inc.; Atty. Pete Quirino Quadra; Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Head, Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Migrante, Gabriela, Gabriela Women's Party, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Jojo Pineda, Dr. Darby Santiago, Dr. Reginald Pamugas; Loreta Ann P. Rosales, and Mario Joyo Aguja, Ana Theresa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Luwalhati Ricasa Antonino; Philippine Constitution (PHILCONSA), Conrado F. Estrella, Tomas C. Toledo, Mariano M. Tajon, Froilan M. Bacungan, Joaquin T. Venus, Jr., Fortunato P. Aguas, and Amado Gat Inciong; Senate of the Philippines; Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, Byron D. Bocar, Ma. Tanya Karina A. Lat, Antonio L. Salvador and Randall C. Tabayoyong, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Cebu City and Cebu Province Chapters; Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, JR., and Senators Sergio R. Osmeňa III, Jamby Madrigal, Jinggoy Estrada, Alfredo S. Lim and Panfilo Lacson; Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

[12] This provision states: “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years.”

[13] I RECORD, 387-388.

[14] During the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento made the following report (I RECORD 389):

MR. SARMIENTO: Madam President, I am happy that the Committee on Amendments and Transitory Provisions decided to retain the system of initiative as a mode of amending the Constitution. I made a survey of American constitutions and I discovered that 13 States provide for a system of initiative as a mode of amending the Constitution — Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon. The initiative for ordinary laws only is used in Idaho, Maine, Montana and South Dakota. So, I am happy that this was accepted or retained by the Committee.

x x x x

The Americans in turn copied the concept of initiatives from the Swiss beginning in 1898 when South Dakota adopted the initiative in its constitution. The Swiss cantons experimented with initiatives in the 1830s. In 1891, the Swiss incorporated the initiative as a mode of amending their national constitution. Initiatives promote “direct democracy” by allowing the people to directly propose amendments to the constitution. In contrast, the traditional mode of changing the constitution is known as “indirect democracy” because the amendments are referred to the voters by the legislature or the constitutional convention.

[15] Florida requires only that the title and summary of the proposed amendment are “printed in clear and unambiguous language.” Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General RE Right of Citizens to Choose Health Care Providers. No. 90160, 22 January 1998, Supreme Court of Florida.

[16] State ex. rel Patton v. Myers, 127 Ohio St. 95, 186 N.E. 872 (1933); Whitman v. Moore, 59 Ariz. 211, 125 P.2d 445 (1942); Heidtman v. City of Shaker Heights, 99 Ohio App. 415, 119 N.E. 2d 644 (1954); Christen v. Baker, 138 Colo. 27, 328 P.2d 951 (1958); Stop the Pay Hike Committee v. Town Council of Town of Irvington, 166 N.J. Super. 197, 399 A.2d 336 (1979); State ex rel Evans v. Blackwell, Slip copy, 2006 WL 1102804 (Ohio App. 10 Dist.), 2006-Ohio-2076.

[17] 407 Mass. 949, 955 (1990). Affirmed by the District Court of Massachusetts in Henry v. Conolly, 743 F. Supp. 922 (1990) and by the Court of Appeals, First Circuit, in Henry v. Conolly, 9109 F. 2d. 1000 (1990), and cited in Marino v. Town Council of Southbridge, 13 Mass.L.Rptr. 14 (2001).

[18] 89 P.3d 1227, 1235 (2004).

[19] Stumpf v. Law, 839 P. 2d 120, 124 (1992).

[20] Exhibit “B” of the Lambino Group’s Memorandum filed on 11 October 2006.

[21] Annex “B” of the Comment/Opposition in Intervention of Atty. Pete Quirino-Quadra filed on 7 September 2006.

[22] www.ulap.gov.ph.

[24] The full text of the proposals of the Consultative Commission on Charter Change can be downloaded at its official website at www.concom.ph.

[25] The Lambino Group’s Memorandum, p 5.

[26] Under the proposed Section 1(2), Article VI of the Constitution, members of Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years “without limitation as to the number thereof.”

[27] Under the proposed Section 4(1), Article XVIII, Transitory Provisions of the Constitution, the interim Parliament “shall continue until the Members of the regular Parliament shall have been elected and shall have qualified.” Also, under the proposed Section 5(2), Article XVIII, of the same Transitory Provisions, the interim Parliament “shall provide for the election of the members of Parliament.”

[28] Under the proposed Section 4(3), Article XVIII, Transitory Provisions of the Constitution, the interim Parliament, within 45 days from ratification of the proposed changes, “shall convene to propose amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution.”

[29] 448 So.2d 984, 994 (1984), internal citations omitted.

[30] 698 P.2d 1173, 1184 (1985).

[31] I RECORD 386, 392, 402-403.

[32] 196 P.2d 787, 790 (1948). See also Lowe v. Keisling, 130 Or.App. 1, 882 P.2d 91 (1994).

[33] 392 P.2d 636, 638 (1964).

[34] 930 P.2d 186, 196 (1996), internal citations omitted.

[35] Livermore v. Waite, 102 Cal. 113, 118-119 (1894).

[36] Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization, 583 P.2d 1281, 1286 (1978).

[37] Id.

[38] Legislature of the State of California v. EU, 54 Cal.3d 492, 509 (1991).

[39] California Association of Retail Tobacconists v. State, 109 Cal.App.4th 792, 836 (2003).

[40] See note 44, infra.

[41] Joaquin Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, p. 1294 (2003).

[42] 238 So.2d 824 (1970).

[43] Id. at 830-832.

[44] As stated by Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr. during the 26 September 2006 oral arguments.

[45] Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003, 415 SCRA 44; J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration, 142 Phil. 393 (1970); Gold Creek Mining Corporation v. Rodriguez, 66 Phil. 259 (1938).

[46] 882 P.2d 91, 96-97 (1994). On the merits, the Court in Lowe v. Keisling found the amendment in question was not a revision.

[47] Section 1, Article V of the Constitution.

[48] Section 11(1), Article XVI of the Constitution.

[49] Section 2, Article VII of the Constitution.

[50] This section provides: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

[51] Spouses Mirasol v. Court of Appeals, 403 Phil. 760 (2001); Intia Jr. v. COA, 366 Phil. 273 (1999).

[52] G.R. No. 129754, Resolution dated 23 September 1997.

[53] Presidential Proclamation No. 58 dated February 11, 1987, entitled “Proclaiming the Ratification of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines Adopted by the Constitutional Commission of 1986, including the Ordinance Appended thereto.”



3 comments:

HILLBLOGGER said...

Dean,

Congratulations to the Filipino people and to the 8 justices of the Supreme Court for a job well done.

The first battle is won, I suppose the next one will be more difficult but the Philippines is on the right track.

Congratulations to you too for keeping the fire burning for the rule of law. You've always impressed me with your staunch belief the Philippines highest courts despite the failings of many of some of its members.

Eric said...

The battle is not quite over. While the Court has wisely ruled against the petition of Sigaw ng Bayan, the Congress , I think, will now attempt to convene itself as a constituent assembly. Therefore, we must continue to be vigilant.

One of the interesting tidbits is that the Court made the distinction between revision and amendment. The shift from presidential to parliamentary is a revision, and such a change is not covered by the people's initiative instrument.

Lord Dracula said...

YEHEY!

Eat that, Lambino!