GROUPS and individuals opposed to charter change filed a petition today at a Quezon City regional trial court seeking to stop election officers in Metro Manila from verifying the signatures gathered by the Sigaw ng Bayan and the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) in their campaign for a “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution.

Led by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. of the anti-chacha group People’s Movement Against Charter Change (People’s March), the petitioners are asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order on the signature verification process, arguing that the current initiative is “unconstitutional, illegal and a direct contravention of the Supreme Court injunction in Santiago vs. Comelec.”

Any signature verification of such a petition, they said, is also unconstitutional, illegal and a misappropriation of public funds in violation of the anti-graft law.

Named respondents were Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan, Comelec National Capital Region director and Quezon City election officers Florian de Guia (District I), Atty. Ma. Lea Alarcon (District II), Rhodora Aquino (District III), and Evangeline Bautista (District IV).

Though he has yet to get a copy of the petition, Rafanan said he gladly welcomes it. “The court is the better battleground to end the agonies of our field personnel. Their unanswered queries will be answered there.”

Rafanan is the only regional director who has so far verbalized his concern over the lack of guidelines from the Comelec national office so its field personnel can validly begin the verification of signatures in their respective areas.

Rafanan is also of the view that the SC decision in Defensor v. Comelec permanently enjoined the poll body from taking cognizance of any petition for initiative to amend the Constitution in the absence of an enabling law.

Comelec Resolution 2300 cannot serve as legal basis for the signature verification process as the Supreme Court’s ruling simultaneously invalidated it,” he said, arguing as well that the legal memorandum issued by Comelec law department director Alioden Dalaig erroneously cited portions of the SC decision that presumes that there is a prior enabling law and a prior implementing resolution.

Dalaig’s memo served as basis for the directive subsequently issued by Commissioner Felix Brawner to the regional offices of Regions II, III and V under his jurisdiction.

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.

Lawyer Neri Colmenares of the Counsel for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), one of the counsels for the petitioners, said that the petition is only one of several legal actions they and other lawyers’ groups under the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL) have filed — and will file — with the lower courts nationwide to counter the so-called “people’s initiative” of Sigaw ng Bayan.

“Considering the constitutional requirement that a valid initiative must have the signatures of at least 3 percent of the voters in each district, a TRO in only one district will immediately destroy the current initiative,” Colmenares said.

Petitions have been previously filed in Makati, Manila, Iloilo, Bacolod and Capiz. The RTC Branch 17 of Roxas, Capiz has already issued a 20-day TRO against the local Comelec office and Dennis Ausan, Region VI director. The Iloilo petition was dismissed by the Iloilo RTC yesterday with Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez personally appearing at the hearing. The Manila petition will be heard on May 3 at the sala of Judge Myra Fernandez.

Colmenares said that they are preparing to file petitions in Cagayan de Oro, Caloocan and Pasig.

CODAL has maintained that election officers verifying the signatures are criminally liable under Article 231 and Article 241 of the Revised Penal Code, specifically for open disobedience and Usurpation of judicial functions, respectively.

Comelec officials who will allot public funds for the verification of the signatures, it said, are also liable under Art. 220 of the Revised Penal Code for misappropriating public funds.

Open disobedience constitutes any judicial or executive officer’s open refusal to execute the judgment, decision or order of any superior authority made within the scope of the jurisdiction of the latter and issued with all the legal formalities.

Any officer of the executive branch who shall assume judicial powers or shall obstruct the execution of any order or decision rendered by any judge within his jurisdiction is guilty of usurpation of judicial functions.

Download the petition filed at the QC RTC here.

4 Responses to Anti-charter change groups seek TRO
on Comelec verification of signatures



April 28th, 2006 at 1:10 pm

Go, go, go!

Then tingnan natin kung deserving nga talaga ang SC na pagtiwalaan pa. Last bastion of democracy?


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Cha-cha won’t happen this year — Fr. Bernas

April 28th, 2006 at 1:28 pm

[…] The campaign for a “people’s initiative” is facing other obstacles from various groups: A petition was filed yesterday asking the Quezon City regional trial court to stop the verification of signatures gathered by the Sigaw ng Bayan. This morning, opponents of the current initiatives gathered at the Club Filipino to launch STOP (Sa Tamang Oras at Paraan) Cha-Cha; the group promises to engage in a “roadshow” to bring to the people their campaign against what they called was Mrs. Arroyo’s cha-cha “railroad.” […]


Cecile Impens

May 1st, 2006 at 4:01 am

It seems that Arroyo Cha-Cha train is already on the railtrack! Is there still any counter offensive left to derail this? With several millions of gathered signatures (that’s what they claim) to support this move, she is very much confident that she can wear these signatures as “shield and weapon” to face those who oppose her. Lamentable to say that citizens ignorance of the subject (Cha-Cha), yet signing for it, had caused themselves great damage. Our incapacity to make good judgments, our short and defective memory of the past regimes, our “bahala na” attitude, our undecisiveness to send strong message to our abusive politicians, put us in this difficult/shameful situation. Manipulative leaders like Arroyo would continue to dwell in our government and would remain there forever if we let these unproductive “attitudes” continue to linger in our system.


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Cha-Cha Files on i-site

May 2nd, 2006 at 11:08 am

[…] But opponents of current initiatives have been equally aggressive in their efforts to derail the cha-cha train. A petition has been filed asking the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to stop election officers from verifying signatures collected for the campaign for a people’s initiative. Last week, a coalition of cha-cha opponents gathered to launch its nationwide campaign. […]

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