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Raul Lambino et al were able to gather the signatures of 6,327,952 individuals for an initiative petition to amend the 1987 Constitution. That said number of votes comprises at least 12 per centum of all registered voters with each legislative district at least represented by at least 3 per centum of its registered voters. The petition was in accordance with RA 6735 or The People’s Initiative and Referendum Act. The number of signatures was been verified by local COMELEC registrars as well. The proposed amendment to the constitution seeks to modify Secs 1-7 of Article VI and Sec 1-4 of Article VII and by adding Art XVIII entitled Transitory Provisions. These proposed changes will shift the bicameral-presidential system to a Unicameral-Parliamentary form of government. The COMELEC, on 31 August 2006, denied the petition of the Lambino group due to the lack of an enabling law governing initiative petitions to amend the Constitution – this is pursuant to the ruling in Santiago vs COMELEC which ruled that RA 6735 was not sufficient to be considered as the enabling law for Sec. 2, Art. XVII. Lambino et al contended that the decision in the aforementioned case is only binding to the parties in that case.
ISSUE: Whether or not the petition for initiative met the requirements of Sec 2 Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution.
HELD: No. The Supreme Court found: The proponents of the initiative secure the signatures from the people. The proponents secure the signatures in their private capacity and not as public officials. The proponents are not disinterested parties who can impartially explain the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed amendments to the people. The proponents present favorably their proposal to the people and do not present the arguments against their proposal. The proponents, or their supporters, often pay those who gather the signatures. Thus, there is no presumption that the proponents observed the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures. The proponents bear the burden of proving that they complied with the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures – that the petition contained, or incorporated by attachment, the full text of the proposed amendments. The proponents failed to prove that all the signatories to the proposed amendments were able to read and understand what the petition contains. Petitioners merely handed out the sheet where people can sign but they did not attach thereto the full text of the proposed amendments.
Lambino et al are also actually proposing a revision of the constitution and not a mere amendment. This is also in violation of the logrolling rule wherein a proposed amendment should only contain one issue. The proposed amendment/s by petitioners even includes a transitory provision which would enable the would-be parliament to enact more rules.
There is no need to revisit the decision held in the Santiago case since the issue at hand can be decided upon other facts. The rule is, the Court avoids questions of constitutionality so long as there are other means to resolve an issue at bar.
***NOTE: On November 20, 2006 in a petition for reconsideration submitted by the Lambino Group 10 (ten) Justices of the Supreme Court voted that Republic Act 6735 is adequate.
HOWEVER, this was a mere minute resolution which reads in part:
Ten (10) Members of the Court reiterate their position, as shown by their various opinions already given when the Decision herein was promulgated, that Republic Act No. 6735 is sufficient and adequate to amend the Constitution thru a people’s initiative.
As such, it is insisted that such minute resolution did not become stare decisis. See discussion here.
****RA 6735: An Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds Therefor