Voting 8-7, SC rules against ‘peoples initiative’

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Supreme Court yesterday junked the petition seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution through people’s initiative, saying it was constitutionally infirm and the signatures backing it were gathered deceptively.

Voting 8-7, the High Court affirmed the Commission on Election’s Aug. 31 resolution that denied the petition of Sigaw ng Bayan and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines. Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban voted against the 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 infirmed initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter basic principles in the Constitution is to allow desecration of the Constitution. To allow such alteration and desecration is to lose this Court’s raison d’ etre,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, said.

The High Tribunal stressed that the petition is void and unconstitutional because it sought a “revision and not an amendment,” hence it violated Section 2, Article 12 of the Constitution that limited people’s initiative to amending the Charter.

It cited the petitioners’ admission that the petition was an “unqualified support to the agenda” of President Macapagal-Arroyo to shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government.

Also, the court said the petition violated Section 5 (b) of Republic Act 6735 which required that a petition for a people’s initiative should be backed by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters as signatories. It noted that the over six million signatories did not sign the petition nor the amended petition filed with the Comelec.

“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,” it stressed.

The tribunal said the Comelec did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the petition using as basis the settled jurisprudence in Santiago and People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization, and Action vs. Comelec.

However, Associate Justice Reynato Puno, in his dissenting opinion, wanted the case remanded to the Comelec for verification of the over six million signatures for an initiative.

Those who voted to junk the petition were Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio (the ponente), Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio Morales, Romeo J. Callejo Sr. and Adolfo S. Azcuna.

Those who dissented were Associate Justices Renato Puno, Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Renato C. Corona, Dante C. Tinga, Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia and Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.