COMELEC releases guidelines in the implementation of a People’s Initiative

Not wanting to be caught ‘flat footed’, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) promulgated Resolution No. 7796 containing the supplemental guidelines in the implementation of Republic Act No. 6735 in relation to COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 regarding the conduct of initiative to amend the constitution.

“The Supreme Court, in its November 21, 2006 Resolution clearly stated that a majority of its members held that Republic Act 6735 was sufficient and adequate to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative,” COMELEC Spokesman James Jimenez said. “With a statement like that, we deemed it prudent to revisit the old rules and incorporate the fundamental principles enunciated by Justice Antonio Carpio in the main decision. This way, if anyone decides to try that route again, we will be ready.”

Under the new rules, proposed amendments to the Constitution must be incorporated in the Petition which must be shown to registered voters whose signatures are being solicited. Proponents are also mandated to ensure that the people who sign the petition know what they are signing.

“The new rules specifically state that proponents of the initiative should make sure that registered voters must have read and understood the petition and the proposed amendments to the Constitution before they actually sign their names.” declared Jimenez. “The signatures of the registered voters on the signature sheets shall constitute their approval of the proposed amendment in the proposed initiative and their consent to the filing of the petition.”

The new guidelines also clarify that “any registered voter or group of registered voters” may be proponents of people’s initiative, proposing amendments to the Constitution, and that signature gathering, as well as the cost of that endeavor, should be the sole responsibility of the proponents with no public funds being used.

On the COMELEC side, the new rules direct Election Officers to verify the signatures gathered based on the registry list of voters, voter’s affidavits, and voter’s identification cards used in the immediately preceding election. Election officers are also mandated to give notice to the general public about verification dates by posting notices in at least two conspicuous places in the city or municipality at least one week before the start of the verification. “We are enforcing this requirement to give notice in order to ensure that everyone who wants to observe the process is given the opportunity to do so,” Jimenez explained.

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