Senators welcome Comelec suspension of people”s initiative proceedings

While several senators welcomed the Commission on Elections (Comelec’s) suspension of all people’s initiative proceedings, they also urged the public to remain vigilant.

“Sa wakas! Tagumpay po ito ng sambayanan! Tumugon ang pamahalaan sa totoong damdamin ng taumbayan,” said Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva.

However, Villanueva added, “Hindi pa po tapos ang laban, patuloy po tayong manalangin at magbantay para siguruhing maprotektahan ang Konstitusyon na siyang kaluluwa ng ating bayan.” 

Senator Nancy Binay also welcomed the position taken by the poll body but reminded the public to remain 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,” said Binay.

“Sa nakalipas na ilang linggo, saksi po ang ating mga kababayan kung paano sinubukang ilusot ang pekeng people’s initiative. Maging mapanuri pa rin—at huwag po tayong magpaloko,” she added.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who earlier raised questions on the Comelec’s “ministerial duty” to receive the signatures from the people’s initiative, said the poll body had finally come to its senses.

“Nagising din sa katotohanan. I am glad that Comelec has listened to us and the Filipino people. This move is Comelec’s acknowledgement of limitations of its authority. I repeat, the Comelec has no authority under the law to formulate guidelines on people’s initiative, even to accept signatures,” he said.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros echoed Pimentel’s message.

“We continue to be vigilant. Babantayan natin ang Comelec every step of the way. Sa dulo, ako ay naninindigan na ang panukala on the table ay isang revision at hindi amendment, kaya kahit paano pa pabalibaliktarin, this sham-led initiative should be buried,” she said.

In welcoming the move, Senator JV Ejercito said he was “glad to know that there are still many government officials who are sensible, who respect our Constitution, and who will defend our democracy in the face of sinister attempts to subvert it.”

In a Monday press conference, Comelec Chairman George Garcia announced that the en banc had unanimously voted for the suspension of Comelec Resolution No. 10650 which covers the guidelines for the people’s initiative.

The “indefinite” suspension included the acceptance of signature sheets by the local Comelec offices pending a review and revision of the said guidelines.

Amid the controversy surrounding the people’s initiative, Pimentel said the Senate planned to file a petition to stop the signature campaign for the people’s initiative in a bid to amend the 1987 Constitution before the Comelec or the Supreme Court (SC).

The ongoing people’s initiative led by the pro-Charter change group PIRMA proposes amending the Constitution to provide that Congress vote “jointly” in changing the fundamental law.

The Senate, for its part, issued a manifesto in which senators rejected the ongoing people’s initiative gathering signatures for the proposed amendment on Congress voting “jointly” for Cha-cha.

“This so-called ‘people’s’ initiative (PI) proposes only one change: in acting as a constituent assembly, the Senate and the House shall vote jointly,” the Senate said.

“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,” it added.

The Senate expressed concern that if this people’s initiative prospers, the Constitution could be changed with or without the Senate’s approval and even absent all the senators.

The manifesto was also issued after thousands of signature forms were submitted to the Commission on Elections offices in the provinces to support the controversial proposed amendment.

Some senators, including Senator Imee Marcos, pointed to her cousin, Speaker Martin Romualdez, as the person behind the people’s initiative.

Romualdez, meanwhile, on Friday said instead of criticizing the House, the Senate should address its supposed failure to approve the Marcos administration’s priority legislation. — DVM, GMA Integrated News

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