Political Law

Miriam Defensor Santiago vs Commission on Elections

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G.R. No. 127325 – 336 Phil. 848 – 270 SCRA 106 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Amendments to the Constitution – Revision vs Amendment – People’s Initiative; Scope

On 6 December 1996, Atty. Jesus S. Delfin filed with COMELEC a Petition to Amend the Constitution to Lift Term Limits of elective Officials by People’s Initiative. The COMELEC then, upon its approval, a.) set the time and dates for signature gathering all over the country, b.) caused the necessary publication of the said petition in papers of general circulation, and c.) instructed local election registrars to assist petitioners and volunteers in establishing signing stations. On 18 December 1996, Miriam Defensor Santiago et al filed a special civil action for prohibition against the Delfin Petition. Santiago argues among others that the People’s Initiative is limited to amendments to the Constitution NOT a revision thereof. The extension or the lifting of the term limits of those in power (particularly the President) constitutes revision and is therefore beyond the power of people’s initiative.

ISSUE: Whether the proposed Delfin petition constitutes amendment to the constitution or does it constitute a revision.

HELD: The Delfin proposal does not involve a mere amendment to, but a revision of, the Constitution because, in the words of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ., it would involve a change from a political philosophy that rejects unlimited tenure to one that accepts unlimited tenure; and although the change might appear to be an isolated one, it can affect other provisions, such as, on synchronization of elections and on the State policy of guaranteeing equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibiting political dynasties. A revision cannot be done by initiative which, by express provision of Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution, is limited to amendments. The prohibition against reelection of the President and the limits provided for all other national and local elective officials are based on the philosophy of governance, “to open up the political arena to as many as there are Filipinos qualified to handle the demands of leadership, to break the concentration of political and economic powers in the hands of a few, and to promote effective proper empowerment for participation in policy and decision-making for the common good”; hence, to remove the term limits is to negate and nullify the noble vision of the 1987 Constitution.

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Separation of Powers

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