SIGNATURES gathered in at least nine provinces by groups pushing for a “people’s initiative” to change the Constitution were found either to have not been properly verified or not verified at all by election officers of the Commission on Elections.

This was disclosed by the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a coalition of 18 legal resource organizations, which has dug up proof debunking claims made by lawyer Raul Lambino of Sigaw ng Bayan and Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) that they have duly complied with the requirements for a valid people’s initiative.

A proper signature verification done by Comelec is required by law in order to validate the authenticity of an initiative. Last March 27, Comelec law department 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 officers from exercising its administrative functions in relation to a people’s intitiative, the Dalaig memo, quoting the SC decision, enumerated the following activities to be performed by election officers which included:

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.

Lambino and Aumentado, lead petitioners in the Supreme Court case on the “people’s initiative,” claimed to have gathered 6.5 million signatures that were purportedly duly verified by Comelec election officers. The two also made much of the fact that, unlike the petition filed by the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (in PIRMA v Comelec — GR No. 129754, September 23, 1997), Sigaw ng Bayan and ULAP’s petition for a people’s initiative had the advantage of having been verified.

But based on its own review of Comelec records, the ALG found out that many certifications issued by election officers merely certify that the names appearing on the signature sheets are names of registered voters. Whether the signatures belonged to the said voters, the election officers, however, apparently did not bother to check at all.

“This is the ultimate deception in the web of lies that constitute this fake people’s initiative,” declared lawyer Marlon Manuel, ALG spokesperson. “This is a proof of the petitioners’ initiative spoof. This initiative is a can of worms which should come out and be buried before they invade and destroy the embodiment of our people’s democratic ideals and aspirations found in the 1987 Constitution.”

With these pieces of evidence, the ALG filed last Tuesday a 45-page memorandum before the Supreme Court as an intervenor-oppositor in the “people’s initiative” case to convince the justices to strike down Sigaw ng Bayan and ULAP’s initiative.

Only names, not signatures, verified

Illustrative of the unverified signatures is Zamboanga del Sur, whose certifications — 12 from its first legislative district and 15 from its second legislative district — only attest that the names appearing on the signature sheets submitted to the election officers were names of bona fide residents of the respective municipalities and/or names that correspond to the names found in the official list of registered voters.

Other provinces with the same flawed certification as Zamboanga del Sur are Compostela Valley, Sulu, Sultan Kudarat, Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental. (In Sulu, though, election officers of the municipalities of Siasi and Tapul declared in their certifications that the signatures were valid and authentic.)

Yet in some municipalities of Zamboanga del Sur such as Midsalip, Tambulig, Tukuran, Josefina, San Miguel, Tabina and Guipos, Manuel said the certifications made by the election officers even carried a disclaimer categorically stating that:

“the matching conducted by this office was exclusively limited to the name and demographic data and shall not in anyway be construed as signature verification.”

The signatures gathered by the groups of Aumentado and Lambino, said Manuel, should therefore be considered as “mere scribbles on scraps of paper without any legal significance.”

Verification by barangay officials

Aside from signatures not being properly verified, the ALG also discovered that many certifications issued by the election officers state that the “verification” was done by the barangay officials, not by the election officers.

This was particularly true in the case of provinces like Sulu and Sultan Kudarat were barangay officials were the ones who conducted the verification of signatures.

Certifications submitted by election officers for the 57,745 signatures gathered in the lone legislative district of Sultan Kudarat (12) and the 14,863 signatures solicited in the second legislative district of Sulu (9) were all issued on the basis of the alleged verification conducted by the barangay officials. The certifications did not have any statement to signify that election officers made the verification themselves.

In fact, many certifications issued by the election officers state the following:

This is to certify that based on the verifications made by the Barangay Officials in this City/Municipality, as attested to by two (2) witnesses from the same Barangays, which is part of the ___ Legislative District of the Province/City of _________________, the names appearing on the attached signature sheets relative to the proposed Initiative on Amendments to the 1987 Constitution, are those of bona fide residents of the said Barangays and correspond to the names found in the official list of registered voters of the Commission on Elections, and/or the voters’ affidavits and/or voters’ identification cards.

Manuel said the flawed verification — with not a single signature properly verified — is evident not only in isolated cases but in entire legislative districts, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Agusan del Norte, First District
  • Bukidnon, First District
  • Bukidnon, Second District
  • Bukidnon, Third District
  • Camiguin, Lone District
  • Lanao del Norte, First District
  • Misamis Occidental, Second District

Active involvement of mayors and DILG officials

Moreover, many certifications reveal the direct participation of the mayors and officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in bringing the signatures to the election officers for verification.

Far from being a genuine people’s initiative, Manuel said “the active participation, in fact the leadership, of the local executives and officers of the DILG is clearly evident from the certifications.”

The ALG cited the case of various municipalities in Zamboanga del Sur — Midsalip, Tukuran, and San Pablo — and Bataan — Samal, Bagac, Orion and Pilar — where the certifications were issued upon the request of the municipal mayors of the said towns.

In Bataan, except for Samal, the certifications also state that the signatures were submitted by the municipal mayors to the offices of the election officers.

In Zambales province, the municipalities of San Marcelino, Subic, Candelaria and Iba also submitted “defective” certifications issued by the election officers to the mayors and not to the petitioners of the so-called “people’s initiative.”

The same case also happened in the municipalities of Labo, Camarines Norte and Pagbilao, Quezon.

In M’lang, Cotabato, the certification issued by the election registrar even identified that a DILG representative was the one who submitted the signatures to the office of the election officer.

17 Responses to Only names, not signatures, verified in Sigaw ng Bayan, ULAP-led ‘initiative’

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monk_x

October 13th, 2006 at 9:29 am

Readers should take the time to read ALG’s pleading. It’s clear, concise and compelling.

Interestingly, the advocates of charter revision have opened a new front in their campaign. Deans from two law schools claim that there is no difference between amendment and revision. The rationale for their argument is hysterical.

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johnmarzan

October 13th, 2006 at 12:53 pm

only the names were verified? oh that’s great COMELEC.

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jester-in-exile

October 13th, 2006 at 1:01 pm

john,

COMELEC – commission mandated to endorse and legalize electoral cheating

’nuff said.

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Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Powderkeg

October 13th, 2006 at 1:09 pm

[…] The PCIJ summarizes the findings of groups opposed to the so-called “people’s initiative.” […]

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Theboss

October 13th, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Baka naman may balak si Lambinong tumakbong Senador,kaya bumalimbing siya para maging popular ang pangalan niya, sa tingin ko, malabo ito, nag uULAP ULAP ang mata ko.

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joselu

October 13th, 2006 at 2:56 pm

why make an “initiative” so hard & complicated?
it’s just a first step to getting to know directly from the people what they really want.
why do we have to go splitting-hairs on every step of the way?
are those opposing the initiative scared of losing out on their powers & previleges?
why do some people want to muddle-up & confuse the issues?
what’s wrong in asking the people directly what is it they really want?
don’t we always do it in a regular election?
it looks like a stupid scene, between people who just want change & characters that are defending the status quo w/ a litany of excuses
thanks to pcij that will never write about the issues of what the changes are supposed to be.
papatul lang sila on the points that will futher divided, create intrigue & fan the flames.
but ask anybody if they really are well aware about the pros & cons of the issues.

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justicialiga

October 13th, 2006 at 3:25 pm

I don’t see the part where Lambino turned coat.

Anyway, for the ConCom members to pursue seats in the Senate is not farfetched if even the ConAss without 3/4 of the Senate going along is defeated before the SC.

Should they win enough seats in a new Senate; they might be able to pull it off as a Constituent assembly wherein 3/4 of both houses voting separately may revise the Charter. They might get it by retaining 2 houses in Parliament.

2 Houses of parliament was initially the recommendation of Chairman Abueva. the ease of dropping that to favor a single house could be with the same ease of reverting back to it just so a Parliamentary form of government is attained.

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joselu

October 13th, 2006 at 5:46 pm

monk_x, check your dictionary first then see if hysterical is the right word or the dictionaries are lieing.
but joking aside, those opposing are really splitting hairs already on semantic matters.
the battle is really going down to absurb matters already.
there has never been a debate on the pros & cons of the issue.
we are such a legalistic society & legal matters are are never ending story.that why see where we are.

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lutongmakaw

October 13th, 2006 at 10:00 pm

The Sigaw ng Bayan na natatakpan ng Ulap is not only a mess but ‘shits’ being thrown all over to stink and mesmerize us into believing that it was a genuine people’s initiative.

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tongue in, anew

October 14th, 2006 at 2:15 am

Now look who’s telling monk_x to read his dictionary.

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Alecks Pabico

October 14th, 2006 at 1:02 pm

thanks to pcij that will never write about the issues of what the changes are supposed to be.

There you go again, Joselu. I suggest you READ (not just scan) what we have been posting on the blog, including the downloadable documents, about the charter change issue. A whole category awaits you, if you only bother to read.

Let me suggest some selected readings, then tell us if we haven’t been writing on the proposed constitutional amendments/revisions to help contribute to enlightened discussion and debate on the matter. The problem with you is that you only see what you want to see.

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    Juan_at_Bandila

    October 14th, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Joselu ang “lying” mo mali ang spelling (and iba pang words)…. if I were you I will write first sa word application to see if the grammar and spelling is correct.. ok ba yan sayo pareng Jose (Pidal) a.k.a Joselu para di naman kami malito sa pagbabasa ng nakakainis mong komento… Is it Deal or No Deal….

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    mac.bh

    October 14th, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Joselu:
    Yung mang-mang na nag kukunyaring matalino ang hirap espelengin, yun namang matalino na nag gagago-gaguhan mahirap din espelengin, e alin ka ba diyan sa dalawa na iyan Joselu? Pag nawala ka diyan sa dalawang uri na iyan malamang may roong bagong uri ng kagaguhan sa mundo. Are you a product of darwin’s evolution?

    Monk X:
    I tried MSWord dictionary and it suggested that the two words are the same and identical. I just don’t know how lawyers define it (they have their own language), but considering that most of the population used MSWord it could be the deciding factor why a comment from law school dean, probably the idea is for the common folks to understand. But I notice the word “Amendment” is synonymous with improvement while the word “Revision” did not suggest improvement.

    As for me the issue of charter change is welcome no matter what is the real intent and purpose of the one pushing it after all it will then be presented to the voter for the final approval, where the majority (50% plus 1) will decide. However, the mode and way of pushing it should be done in accordance with the existing laws and regulation. The fact that this is not done in a transparent ideal way leads to the negative conclusion of having a better charter towards a better future, be it politically or economically. The novelty of the idea was defeated by the way it is being push.

    So whom should we blame? The problem started on the creator of this incomplete option and laws. When they created this they have not taken the consideration of how could it be possible to exercise this given right? Now it just bears fruit of discomfort, abuse and political nightmare. Matatalino ba sila o nagtatalitalinuhan lang? A futile exercise wrap as a gift to the common people? Ano Joselu, kasali ka ba diyan?

    With this in mind could it be better then to have a bicameral rather than unicameral? Its your pick!

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    monk_x

    October 14th, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Folks,

    For the record, if we look at enough dictionaries we will see that “hysterical” also means “causing unrestrained laughter; very funny” or “extremely funny.” I know I used the right word.

    As to distinction between an amendment and revision – the distinction can be determined in the way they are used in Article XVII of the Constitution. I think the distinction was already explained by Fr. Bernas in his Inquirer column (
    http://opinion.inq7.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=22837) so I do not want to repeat the explanation here. I will say only that those opposing the present change are pointing out that the Constitution has prescribed a method for change and that Initiative is limited only to amendments.

    Incidentally there are many dictionaries that do not equate amendment and revision.

    I should make it clear that many of those in court now opposing the Lambino initiative are not against making necessary changes in the Constitution but are opposed to the manner in which it is being carried out. If in fact the signatures were improperly collected then the campaign should be stopped. That is what the law requires and no amount of good intentions should be allowed to disregarad the rules that we have agreed upon in making changes to the constitution.

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    justicialiga

    October 15th, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Joselu,

    Hello, if you are same poster in MLQ3’s blog then it is only proper to admit that I am justice league there.

    You seem to be asking for a discussion/debate on the issues of the proposed revision. I seem to remember that I asked you if you wanted one back in Manolo’s blog.

    You didn’t seem to have answered. Should you be the same one; may I be so bold as to ask if you are only forum shopping?

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    Cecile Impens

    October 21st, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    This is for Joselu,
    You asked: Why make an “initiative” so hard and complicated?

    Joselu, simply because the present administration is dragging the whole Filipino nation to the unknown world of extreme deceptions! There is no people’s initiative here, it is all Gloria’s initiative! Besides, who can guarantee us of better government under the Parliamentary system? NO ONE! What we need is a transparency in our present system, not a sort of government that requires several decades to put everything in perspectives.

    Again you asked:
    What’s wrong in asking the people directly what is it they really want?

    There is nothing wrong there Joselu! What is wrong here is the method used! If this is a “real” people’s initiative, then why not ask the entire voters population? Why a mere 12% requires by the administration to make it valid? Can you call this method “democratic” if the staggering 88% of the voters voice be left unsolicited?

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    INSIDE PCIJ » Deception and the Sigaw initiative

    November 3rd, 2006 at 10:27 am

    […] Other anti-Charter change groups also said there were lack of verification of signatures in several legislative districts. The Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a coalition of 18 legal resource organizations, found that signatures gathered in at least nine provinces were either not properly verified or not verified at all by local election officials. Others alleged there were irregularities in the collection of signatures in cities like Makati, where even signatures of people “long dead, in prison, abroad, and other forgeries appear on the Sigaw ng Bayan signature sheets.” But Lambino said these issues are “matters of fact” that need to be proved or disproved by evidence. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Reynato Puno agreed that the issue “involves contentious facts” that the Comelec must resolve based on evidence. […]

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