The Supreme Court has ruled on Sigaw ng Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration regarding the Court’s decision in Lambino v. Comelec. Aside from junking the motion, the Court also in effect ruled that the law governing initiative is sufficient.
Basically, the Court had junked the Sigaw petition not because there is no enabling law; the Court notes that (1) the signature gathering is suspicious, (2) the law covers only amendments; and (3) the Sigaw petition calls for a revision of, not amendment to, the Charter.
Now that the initiative law is deemed sufficient for the purposes stated in the Charter, there’s no more hindrance for a true people’s initiative. Currently simmering in the comments section of several blogs (like this one) is an idea of a people’s initiative to amend the Charter in such a way that the terms of the current President and Vice President are cut and new elections are called.
An issue may arise due to RA 6735 (Initiative Law) itself, no thanks to Sigaw. Section 5 (b) states:
(b) A petition for an initiative on the 1987 Constitution must have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters therein. Initiative on the Constitution may be exercised only after five (5) years from the ratification of the 1987 Constitution and only once every five (5) years thereafter.
The operative clause is this: “Initiative on the Constitution may be exercised only after five (5) years from the ratification of the 1987 Constitution and only once every five (5) years thereafter.”
Now the question is this: since an initiative can only be exercised once every five years (after such exercise?), can a people’s initiative be exercised after the Sigaw fiasco? That will depend on how the word “exercised” is defined, and that I leave to lawyers.
Basically, if we follow the timeline from the Delfin/PIRMA petition of 1997 to Sigaw, almost nine years had passed; the Sigaw petiton satisfies the once-every-five-years rule. If the Sigaw petition is considered a exercise in initiative though voided by the Court (as the Dean said it, SC void Sigaw petition due to insufficiency in form), that means the next time an initiative can be exercised is on 2011, way past the term of Gloria Arroyo.
NB: If the previous definition of an initiative exercise is correct, the Sigaw petition was pushed as such so that any other petition can only be made after 2010.
I believe the best definition of the word “exercised” (as far as I can glean from the spirit of RA 6735) is a completed petition timeline – from filing up to plebiscite. Mere filing of a petition does not mean the initiative is exercised.
But that’s conjecture. Lawyers better explain that to us (blawggers, please!).
Anyway, back to the topic. Let us exercise our brains for a bit. Let us propose an amendment to the 1987 Charter that will cut short the terms of the President (or all elected officials if you want) and will call for an election. So let’s put into words that idea:
Section 1. Amending Article IV, section 4 (cvj amendment), the terms of the incumbent President and Vice President elected during the 2004 national elections are hereby cut and will end four months after the ratification of this amendment.
Section 2. (1) Three months after the ratification of this amendment, an election to replace the outgoing President and Vice President shall be held.
(2) In case no candidate for President or Vice President can garner at least 40 per cent of the total votes cast, a run-off elections between the top two candidates shall be held.
Section 3. The elected President shall take the oath of office immediately upon proclamation by the National Board of Canvassers. The terms of the elected President and Vice President shall
last until June 30, 2010 be for six years starting from the day the oath is taken (cvj amendment).
Please feel free to comment and refine. This is very inelegant and not well thought of.