Charter change bid signatures may be voided if ‘funded’ | Inquirer News

Charter change bid signatures may be voided if ‘funded’

George Garcia-France Castro-15jan2024

Comelec Chair George Garcia and Rep. France Castro (File photos by NIÑO JESUS ORBETA  and GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The ongoing “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution may be voided if it is proven that the signatures for the petition were gathered using government funds, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair George Garcia.

Garcia cited a resolution issued by Comelec in 2020 amid allegations that government functionaries were being mobilized to gather signatures and that signatories were promised money in exchange.


“Section 16 of Resolution 10650 prohibits the use of government funds to gather signatures for a people’s initiative,” he said in a radio interview on Sunday.


He is referring to Comelec Resolution No. 10650, issued on Jan. 31, 2020, that laid the rules for the “conduct of initiative on the Constitution and initiative and referendum on national and local legislation.”

Not election offense

Section 16 states that “all expenses relative to the signature gathering and verification shall be solely borne by the proponent/s and shall not be funded from public sources.”

“If that will be proven, oh well, the individual signatures of people who were either intimidated, terrorized, or given money from government funds may be voided,” Garcia said.

As one of the ways to introduce amendments to the Constitution, a people’s initiative has to gather at least 12 percent of the total registered voters nationwide and 3 percent of the registered voters per legislative district.

If the signature drive becomes successful, the proposed Charter amendment will undergo a plebiscite to be conducted by Comelec.

Should it receive a signed people’s initiative, Comelec has to verify whether the signatures gathered were sufficient and whether the proposed amendment conformed with the required form of the petition.


“Then we will order to verify the signatures if they were really the signatures of the voters if they really signed it,” Garcia said.

But if the signatures are invalidated and the petition falls through, Garcia said Comelec has no authority to charge the proponents with election offense since it was not an electoral exercise.

He, however, said the use of public funds falls under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), while the involvement of government employees falls under civil service rules prohibiting partisan political activity.

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“But on our part, we don’t want to comment yet because we are waiting if there will be any complaint,” Garcia stressed.

TAGS: charter change, Commission on Elections, constitutional amendements, France Castro, George Garcia

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