There have been two attempts to use the People's Initiative provision to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Article XVII - Amendments Or Revisions - Section 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. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter. The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.(1) The first one in 1997 may be identified as the Pirma People's Initiative to lift the term limits on national officials and would have directly benefited its principal architect and sponsor, then President Fidel V. Ramos.
(2) The second one in 2006, as we know is the Sigaw ng Bayan People's Initiative to switch to a Unicameral parliamentary system from the present Bicameral presidential system, which would benefit the incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, and the aforementioned FVR.
Both were struck down by the Supreme Court for being INSUFFICIENT IN FORM after they were submitted to Comelec for ratification in a Plebiscite.
(1) Santiago v. Comelec The Pirma initiative petition contained a succinct statement of the proposed amendment, but it did not have the required number of 12% of the voters signatures upon that initiative petition. Thus the Pirma initiative had the amendments proposed by the initiative but not the signatures.
(2) Lambino v. Comelec The Sigaw initiative petition contained more than the required number of 12% of the voters signatures but the Court could not find evidence that the proponents had ever "shown to the people" the complete text of the Unicameral Parliamentary proposal. In effect, the Sigaw petition was insufficient in form because it had the signatures but not the proposed amendments!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 'NECESSARY & SUFFICIENT' AND 'TOO MUCH'
The two Supreme Court Decisions could've stopped right here and voided each attempt just upon their self-evident noncompliance with the plain requirements of the Constitution for amending the Constitution by People's Initiative. But I guess a finding of an insufficiency in form might be criticized as a mere "technicality" so that in both cases the Supreme Court went further in its demolition of the two People's Initiative campaigns.
It found in both cases that the proposed "amendments" actually amounted to REVISIONS of the Constitution. In other words, that these proposed changes to the Constitution by People's Initiative (lifting term limits and switching to Unicameral Parliamentary) are unconstitutional because they are overly sufficient in substance, being tantamount to a wholesale revision of the 1987 Constitution. Thus the Court ruled that these changes may not be proposed by the people's initiative mode.
BUT The Supreme Court Minute Resolution denying the Sigaw ng Bayan Petition with finality ends with the following beguiling statement--
Ten (10) Members of the Court reiterate their position, as shown by their various opinions already given when the Decision herein was promulgated, that Republic Act No. 6735 is sufficient and adequate to amend the Constitution thru a people's initiative."So, is this an Implied Reversal of --?
Santiago v. Comelec (1997)The "Ten (10) Members of the Court" who are merely "reiterating their opinion" in various separate concurring and dissenting opinions are Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban and Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago and Adolfo S. Azcuna joined their dissenting colleagues, namely, Senior Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno and Justices Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Renato C. Corona, Dante O. Tinga, Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia and Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.
CONCLUSION: This petition must then be granted, and the COMELEC should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments on the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.
We feel, however, that the system of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution should no longer be kept in the cold; it should be given flesh and blood, energy and strength. Congress should not tarry any longer in complying with the constitutional mandate to provide for the implementation of the right of the people under that system.
WHEREFORE, judgment is h[e]reby rendered
a) GRANTING the instant petition;
b) DECLARING R.A. No. 6735 inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution, and to have failed to provide sufficient standard for subordinate legislation;
c) DECLARING void those parts of Resolutions No. 2300 of the Commission on Elections prescribing rules and regulations on the conduct of initiative or amendments to the Constitution; and
d) ORDERING the Commission on Elections to forthwith DISMISS the DELFIN petition (UND-96-037).
The Temporary Restraining Order issued on 18 December 1996 is made permanent as against the Commission on Elections, but is LIFTED against private respondents.
Resolution on the matter of contempt is hereby reserved.
Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo,Kapunan, Hermosisima, Jr. and Torres Jr., JJ., concur. Padilla, J., took no part; related to a co-petitioner and co-counsel of the petitioners. Melo and Mendoza, JJ., joins the separate, concurring opinions of Justices Puno, Francisco and Panganiban. Puno, Vitug, , Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., has separate opinions.
The Reversal is not implied. The Ten Minute Resolution is a direct contradiction of Santiago v. Comelec, if you look at the red-bolded words above.
There may be a clue to the Court's apparently vacillating stance in this now suggestive passage from Santiago v. Comelec--
Even if it be conceded ex gratia that R.A. No. 6735 is a full compliance with the power of Congress to implement the right to initiate constitutional amendments, or that it has validly vested upon the COMELEC the power of subordinate legislation and that COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 is valid, the COMELEC acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in entertaining the Delfin Petition.In effect, that was all there was to Santiago v. Comelec--a defective petition that did not meet the Constitution's requirements on the numbers and signatures of the petitioners that Comelec had no business entertaining. Meanwhile in Lambino v. Comelec, all there is to it is also a defective petition with the required numbers of voters and signatures, but no proper proposal attached to them.
Under Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution and Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 6735, a petition for initiative on the Constitution must be signed by at least 12% of the total number of registered voters of which every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein. The Delfin Petition does not contain signatures of the required number of voters. Delfin himself admits that he has not yet gathered signatures and that the purpose of his petition is primarily to obtain assistance in his drive to gather signatures. Without the required signatures, the petition cannot be deemed validly initiated.
In a some sense, the matter of "revision or amendment" and the matter of a "sufficient enabling law" are in and of themselves, superfluous matters with respect to the decision facing the Supreme Court in each case, which was whether to allow either of these to proceed to plebiscite. I, for one, don't agree that the term limits change is a Revision, fer Chrisakes!
They did not have to rule that RA 6735 was "inadequate" to implement People's Initiative in Santiago v. Comelec, and did not even address it in Lambino v. Comelec. Even if they were to reverse that dictum now, it would not reverse the practical effect of the Conclusions of either Decision, which was to stop the Pirma and Sigaw initiatives.
Perhaps, the Supreme has suddenly realized it had overstepped its bounds by ruling upon the sufficiency in substance of the enabling law of Congress on initiative and referendum.
But what a niggardly apology this one sentence is at the end of a mere Minute Resolution of the God Almighty Supreme Court!
They have left the door ajar though!
...and I am actually glad this is happening. Because there should be a People's Initiative mode for amending the Constitution. It should NOT be limited to once every five years. Instead it should be permitted when some percentage of the voters sign upon a proper initiative petition and be put up for plebiscite in regular elections as Propositions, to be ratified or rejected by the People.
The worst thing about the current provision is it is not self-executory and requires that Congress provide for the implementation of the people's initiative. How can it be the People's Initiative when the Twin Houses of the Politicians gets to define and provide for its implementation?