DESPITE a directive issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) national office last week, the process of verifying the signatures gathered by groups pushing for a people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution has remained at a standstill in several areas, particularly in Metro Manila.

The poll body has authorized its field officers to commence the signature verification on the basis of a legal memorandum by Comelec law department director Alioden Dalaig saying that the 1997 Supreme Court ruling in Defensor Santiago vs Comelec did not prohibit election officers from exercising its administrative functions in relation to a people’s intitiative.

Such functions, the Dalaig memo enumerated, quoting the SC decision, are confined to the following activities:

  • prescribing the form of the petition;
  • issuing a certificate on the total number of registered voters in each legislative district through its Election Records and Statistics Office;
  • assisting in the establishment of signature stations through its election registrars; and
  • verifying, through its election registrars, the signatures on the basis of the registry of voters, voters’ affidavits, and voters’ identification cards used in the immediately preceding election.

The lack of guidelines on steps to be taken in relation to the verification process is apparent as several election officers (here, here, and here) have asked the Comelec national office for instructions if they can validly begin the verification of signatures in their respective areas as their offices have been flooded with such requests beginning last week.

Lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, Comelec director for National Capital Region, has summed up the field personnel’s concern about the guidelines:

“What is meant by verification? Who should do the verification? Where? When? How? Who should be present, if any? Is there a budget for this? Which law shall govern their “verification”? What Comelec Resolution shall authorize their acts to determine the rightness of what they are doing? Shall our EOs (election officers) and EAs (election assistants) set aside their tasks of daily registration of voters, transfer, correction of entries, etc., in order to give way to ‘verification’?”

But with the exception of Comm. Felix Brawner who is in charge of Regions II, III and V, the other commissioners — Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., Resurreccion Borra, and Florentino Tuason Jr. — have not put their verbal orders into writing, which has only added to the wariness of election officers to initiate the process of verification.

Adding to the confusion, the Comelec legal memo is based on the SC ruling and Comelec En Banc Resolution No. 2300 which seeks to implement Republic Act No. 6735 (or the Initiative and Referendum Act of 1989).The activities outlined by the poll body’s memo are taken from Sections 7, 28, 29 and 30 of the en banc resolution.

In his view, Rafanan said Comelec Resolution 2300 cannot serve as legal basis for the signature verification process as the Supreme Court’s ruling simultaneously invalidated it. He also pointed out that the Comelec legal memo erroneously cited portions of the SC decision that presupposes that there is a prior enabling law and a prior implementing resolution.

“RA 6735 is inadequate according to the Supreme Court. Hence, Comelec Resolution 2300 issued to implement it was declared void as far as provisions on initiative to amend the Constitution are concerned. The Supreme Court enjoined the Comelec permanently from taking cognizance of any petition for initiative to amend the Constitution,” Rafanan said.

“Both law and implementing guidelines are very important because the Constitution says there must be an enabling law, and together with the guidelines it will show how to do initiative: what is allowed, what is prohibited, what is amendment and what is revision, budget, contents of petition, timetable, who should be present if any during verification, who should certify the results, to whom shall the results be submitted, and so on,” he added.

8 Responses to Comelec signature verification at a standstill

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Emmanuel Mijares

April 7th, 2006 at 5:22 pm

I agree very much with the respected constitionalist, Fr. Joachin Bernas, who presents two constitutional impediments to this much publishized people’s initiative. Has this initiative a backing of an enabling law promulgated by the constitution? No.

Another: People’s initiative is only constitutional if it is for the ammendment, not revision of the constitution, as Rafanan also noted. To have a cha-cha from the presidential to parliamentary system of government is certainly a revision. To have cha-cha on the basis of people’s initiative is not constitutional.

Lastly, was the manner of collecting signatures enlightened? Was it done with transparency or a certain degree of trickery.

When the time is ripe, to file a restraining order might to further clarify this important political exercise.

We need also to ask for more information about the Tabuena Commission the draft of its recommendation and proposals so that the public could study it. I hope that this website could supply its readers. Anyway the above article is a great help. TY

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Rep. Dominguez campaigns for charter change

April 8th, 2006 at 12:13 am

[…] Moreover, despite questions on the legality of the people’s initiative and the issues surrounding the Comelec’s move to verify the signatures, Dominguez said election officials should start validating the signatures as Comelec has already issued an order to do so. On March 27, Comelec has issued a memorandum, stating that field personnel can validly verify the signatures for charter change. […]

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ardythe

April 9th, 2006 at 7:04 pm

Signature verification? How can we be sure that these are authentic? We are aware that the Filipinos are so good at imitating or faking things…so sad but true.

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nats

April 9th, 2006 at 9:40 pm

Remember that the same people who validated the 2004 national elections will be the same persons who will verify the signatures of the people’s initiative. When are we going to learn? If we go down, accept it! We are the masters of own fate, nobody else.

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Patrick

April 13th, 2006 at 11:42 am

I am totally convinced that whatever political and social malaises we are experiencing right now, it trace its roots to the self-centered orienation of leaders plus our emerging political passivity.

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Anti-charter change groups seek TRO on Comelec verification of signatures

April 27th, 2006 at 11:47 pm

[…] Despite the state of confusion among Comelec’s field personnel, the NCR election director disclosed that signatures have been verified in Marikina, Manila, Pasay, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa. “I don’t know about Quezon City,” he added. […]

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Emmanuel Mijares » Blog Archive » People’s Initiative? Oh no!!

June 3rd, 2006 at 1:25 pm

[…] Bloged in: PCIJ […]

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The Daily PCIJ » Blog Archive » Only names, not signatures, verified in Sigaw ng Bayan, ULAP-led ‘initiative’

September 13th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

[…] director Alioden Dalaig issued a legal memorandum authorizing its field officers to commence the signature verification. Saying that the 1997 Supreme Court ruling in Defensor Santiago v Comelec did not prohibit election […]

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