Cha-cha bid signatures can still be pulled out–Comelec

Cha-cha bid signatures can still be pulled out — Comelec

Commission on Elections Chairperson George Garcia

Commission on Elections Chairperson George Garcia. | PHOTO: Noy Morcoso/

The head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said people who had signed a petition for a people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution could still withdraw their signatures if they did not fully understand the significance of the planned Charter change (Cha-cha).

“For me, even in our ordinary lives, you don’t just sign documents without knowing what they are for. What you do should spring from the heart and that you understand the implication of those [acts],” Comelec Chair George Garcia said.


READ: Cha-cha drive ‘treacherous, divisive and unwise’ – Hontiveros

He said Filipinos should be “vigilant and remember always that all your actions should be for the country.”


People who have signed a document circulating the country purporting to back the initiative may still recall their signatures by making a manifestation of withdrawal at local Comelec offices, Garcia said.

“There is nothing that prevents anyone from stating that he did not understand what he signed so he is withdrawing his signature,” he said.

Right to remove

The local Comelec office will take note of signature withdrawals or manifestations that a voter’s signature had been faked, Garcia said, adding that the poll body had the right to remove the names of those who signed the petition in either instance.

“It’s within our power to determine the regularity of signatures there [in the petition]. Each signature will be treated on a case-to-case basis,” he told reporters.

Garcia reminded those who planned to sign the petition, which had been going around the country since the start of the New Year, to do so clearly and with the same signature they had used when they registered with the Comelec and when they voted during the last barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

For joint vote

If they are different, the Comelec may disregard them “even if you claim they are your signatures,” he said.


A copy of the petition seen by the Inquirer authorizes a certain lawyer to file it “and perform any and all acts necessary in furtherance thereof.”

It seeks to amend Article XVII, Section 1 (1) of the Constitution on how Congress may amend the Charter itself with a vote of three-fourths of all its members. The amendment specifies that this vote be made “jointly, at the call of the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

The signature sheet has spaces where people write down their names, addresses, and election precinct numbers and place their signatures or thumbmarks.

Three modes

This amendment appears intended to make it easier and faster for Congress to make further amendments to the Constitution.

Under the 1987 Constitution, amendments may be proposed by a constitutional convention of elected delegates, by lawmakers convening themselves as a constituent assembly, or through a people’s initiative.

Amendments to the Constitution by a constituent assembly are affirmed through a three-fourths vote of all its members.

However, the 1987 Constitution does not specify if the two chambers will vote jointly or separately.

If the people’s initiative succeeds, the 24 senators will be overwhelmed by the more than 300 members of the House of Representatives.

What ultimate changes would be made in the Charter are not categorically disclosed by the current petition for a people’s initiative.

The proponents, led by the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action, are advocating the removal of the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of public utilities and patrimony to boost the economy.

Asia’s laggard

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a Cha-cha advocate, supports opening up the country’s public utilities and lands to foreigners.

“I’ve been in this Congress since 1998; I’ve always fought for [changing the Charter],” he said, noting that the Philippines “started to break away from the rest of Asia between 1997 and 1998—that is when we started falling behind.”

“While everybody else opened up, we closed further,” he said.

Salceda said Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 filed by Senate President Miguel Zubiri was “lacking,” but he still welcomed the move in light of the Senate’s previous refusal to amend the Constitution.

He said at least 358 bills had been filed to amend the Constitution since 1987, and all but one (in the 12 Congress) were “dead on arrival.”

“There is a substantial attempt this time to amend the economic provisions in the Constitution,” he said.

Increasing daily

Salceda believes it is futile to try and stop the people’s initiative despite Zubiri’s resolution as “the genie is already out of the bottle.”

“I don’t think we can stop it because the ordinary people are submitting boxes of signatures for verification to the Comelec,” Salceda said. “It must be met with due respect and openness.”

Garcia said that as of Thursday, local election offices in around 600 cities and municipalities had received compiled signature sheets for the petition for a people’s initiative.

“It seems the number is continuing to increase every day,” he said. “The Comelec has no choice but to receive these signature sheets. This is part of our ministerial duty.”

But as of Thursday, no formal petition for a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution has been filed, Garcia said.

“And even if there would be a petition, this does not mean that the petition would push through because the Comelec shall determine if it was sufficient in form and substance first,” he said.

The petition for a people’s initiative must be signed by at least 12 percent of the country’s 67 million registered voters. In addition, at least 3 percent of the registered voters in each of the 253 legislative districts must also be represented.

“Even if the initiative gathered signatures of 20 percent of the registered voters in the country (or more than 13 million signatures), but one of the 253 districts failed to garner at least 3 percent of its registered voters, then the petition will be outright dismissed,” Garcia said.

Alleged timeline

If the people’s initiative passes the requirements, the proposed amendment will be submitted to the electorate for approval or rejection in a plebiscite.

Salceda said that proponents of the initiative “want to hit it (plebiscite) before July—ahead of President Marcos’ third State of the Nation Address.

It was the same timeline that Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel had said was being targeted as a “perfect gift” to Mr. Marcos by those pushing the people’s initiative petition, which his group opposes.

Salceda refused to confirm Manuel’s timeline directly.

“I know that July is the specific timeline,” he said. “Why should I confirm what I already know?”

“The point there is that it has to be reasonably actionable, and that there’s enough time before the 2025 elections,” he added. “By October, we need to be filing certificates of candidacy [for the midterm elections].”

No enabling law

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said it would not matter how many signatures would be gathered for the people’s initiative.“First, there is no enabling law, and second, there were so many reports of signature-buying and bribery using aid,” she said in Filipino.

Although there is Republic Act No. 6735, or the Initiative and Referendum Act, the Supreme Court said in Santiago vs Comelec that the law was insufficient or would not enable petitions for people’s initiative to amend the Charter.

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“This is not even citing Cha-cha’s untimeliness and the politically motivated reasons of term extensions and creation of new positions driving the effort,” she said, urging the public to oppose Cha-cha and remain vigilant against moves to revise the 1987 Constitution. —WITH REPORTS FROM DEXTER CABALZA AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE

TAGS: Cha-cha, Comelec

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