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Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay and president of the Liberal Party called on the proponents of charter change via people’s initiative to stop forthwith the “misadventure” because there is no enabling law implementing the process by which the people can exercise their right to directly propose amendments to the Constitution.

Lagman made the call after he filed House Bill No. 9868 entitled the “Enabling Law on People’s Initiative to Propose Amendments to the Constitution”.

Lagman said his bill is to introduce the “enabling and compliant law so that our people can validly and properly exercise their right of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution.” 

On 19 March 1997, or almost 27 years ago, the Supreme Court categorically and unanimously held in Santiago vs. COMELEC (G.R. No. 127325) that the “Initiative and Referendum Act” or R.A. No. 6735 is not a sufficient, adequate, compliant, and enabling law to implement the exercise of people’s initiative to directly propose constitutional amendments. 

The Supreme Court also underscored that “the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of initiative would remain entombed in the cold niche of the Constitution until Congress provides for its implementation.”

The High Court further ruled in Santiago that the “COMELEC should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.” 

The Santiago ruling was not abandoned in Lambino vs. COMELEC (G.R. NO. 174153) where the Supreme Court denied the petition on another principal issue that people’s initiative cannot propose revision of the Constitution like transforming the form of government from presidential/bicameral to parliamentary/unicameral.

Any side statement in Lambino stating that ten (10) magistrates are in favor of abandoning the doctrine in Santiago is a mere obiter dictum, which does not constitute the ratio decidende or rationale for the decision, neither does it constitute a precedent. It  is an “aside commentary” with scant jurisdictional value.

In the recent Senate investigation related to people’s initiative, former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, the ponente in Lambino, and former Supreme Court Justice Adolf Ascuna, who joined in the majority decision, confirmed that the Santiago ruling was not abandoned in Lambino and an obiter dictum is never controlling.




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