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Comelec Chairperson George Garcia (Photo: Ryan Baldemor/RepublicAsia)

Comelec suspends proceedings on people’s initiative for Cha-cha

by Carl Santos

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday announced the suspension of all proceedings related to the controversial people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution. 

”We have directed our local Comelec offices and our election officers in cities and municipalities to stop receiving signature sheets,” Comelec Chairperson George Garcia said in a press conference. 

Garcia said the suspension would pave the way for a review and enhancement of Comelec’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) concerning the people’s initiative to avoid confusion in the interpretation of the rules. 

The poll body said the current guidelines lack provisions specific to crucial matters and emerging issues, such as the withdrawal of or opposition to submitted signature sheets, allegations of signature-buying, and other issues on the counting and verification of signatures.

It also clarified that it does not have jurisdiction on any initiative to amend the constitution yet because no petition has been filed.

”Without a petition and its annexes duly filed, the submitted signature sheets currently hold no value nor have any expiry date. The signature sheets will remain secure in the custody of the Comelec,” the poll body said in a press statement.

The people’s initiative has been branded as fake and divisive by senators, the Dutertes and their allies amid claims that government funds are being utilized to persuade people to support it.

Senators warned that the current initiative proposes only one change: in acting as a constituent assembly, the Senate and the House shall vote jointly. 

”While it seems simple, the goal is apparent: to make it easier to revise the Constitution by eliminating the Senate from the equation. It is an obvious prelude to further amendments, revisions, or even an overhaul of our entire Constitution,” they said. 

Speaker Martin Romualdez has also been accused of leading the signature campaign, which he denied.

Some senators welcomed the Comelec’s decision.

”The Comelec has taken the correct path when it stopped the questionable Cha-cha (Charter change) signature campaign. A ‘people’s initiative’ that started on the wrong foot and was tainted with controversy would not do the country and the people good,” Senator Grace Poe said. 

”What we have before us is ‘pekeng initiative’ or fake initiative pushed by politicians and allegedly greased by money to deceive the public to support Cha-cha,” she added. 

Senators Nancy Binay and Risa Hontiveros said they would continue to be vigilant. 

”Pero sa kabila nito, nanindigan pa rin tayo na dapat mas paigtingin pa natin ang pagbabantay sa umiikot na pagpapapirma sa ating mga purok, barangay, sa mga kalsada’t plaza, sa mga pagpapatipon, at iba pang lugar,” Binay said. 

”Maging mapanuri pa rin—at huwag po tayong magpaloko.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would appeal to the House of Representatives to stop the people’s initiative.

Disclosing some details of their meeting at Bahay Pangulo on Monday, Zubiri said Marcos felt that the signature campaign was now ”getting out of hand.”

“We in the Senate thank the President for his commitment, and we remain firm in our vigilance against any attempts to destabilize our democracy. We maintain that the ongoing people’s initiative is flawed and unconstitutional and offers no solution to the problems most urgently affecting our people,” Zubiri said.



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