Bill on people’s initiative, penalties for signature buying, selling filed

Bill on people’s initiative, penalties for signature buying, selling filed Featured

MANILA, Philippines— Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has filed a bill providing for a system of people’s initiative and referendum that will cover the system for constitutional amendments.

Filed late last week, Pimentel’s Senate Bill No. 2595 also seeks to penalize a person who gives, offers or promises money in exchange for people’s initiative signatures.

In filing the bill, the senator cited a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that found Republic Act (RA) No. 6735 known as the “Initiative and Referendum Act” inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution.

The same ruling cited the law’s failure “to provide sufficient standards for subordinate legislation on the part of the Commission on Elections,” the senator said.

“As a measure to not only fill in the gaps found in R.A. No. 6735 but to also update the system of people’s initiative and referendum to reflect present-day political conditions, it is proper that this bill be introduced as a new measure, rather than an amendment to the existing law,” he said in his explanatory note in the bill.

“This measure introduces as well penal provisions against the commission of prohibited acts connected to the conduct of initiative and referendum.”

“Making reference to the punishable acts of the Omnibus Election Code and other election laws, this measure ensures the sanctity of direct democracy just as our election laws ensure the sanctity of the ballot,” the opposition leader further said.

The conduct of a people’s initiative is one of the three modes of amending the 1987 Constitution.

Under Pimentel’s bill, the people’s initiative will commence upon the filing of a verified petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The petition should contain the following, among others:

• Complete name, address and personal circumstances of the petitioners
• The complete text of the proposed amendments to the Constitution
• The reason/s therefor
• The signature sheet signed by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voter, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent of the registered voters therein
• The starting date when the signatures were collected

Within 90 days from receipt of the petition, the Comelec shall determine the sufficiency in form and substance of the petition and verify the number of signatures and their authenticity.

“The decision of the Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court by a special civil action for certiorari,” the bill said.
The Comelec, according to the bill, will set the date of the plebiscite not earlier than 60 days but not later than 90 days from its certification of the petition.

The measure also provides for the procedures on how to pass or reject a law through initiative and referendum.

In addition to acts already penalized under existing laws, the bill likewise seeks to penalize any person “who gives, offers, or promises money or anything of value, any office or employment, franchise or grant…” in exchange for the PI signature.

A jail term of up to nine years is being proposed under the measure.

“If the same is committed by a public officer, the penalty shall not be less than 9 years and one day but not more than 12 years, and forfeiture of all benefits with perpetual disqualification from public office,” the bill further added.

Other prohibited acts with corresponding penalties were also enumerated in the proposed legislation.

The filing of Pimentel’s bill came at a time Congress is discussing amendments to specific economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.


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