If the campaign for people’s initiative to amend the Constitution is inspired by noble and patriotic motives, then why buy the people’s will?
Former Ako Bicol Party-List Congressman Pido Garbin is expected to deny that the various municipal mayors present during the meeting in the afternoon of 05 January 2024 at Ellis Hotel in Legazpi City received from Ako Bicol coordinators 50% of the total amount of P100/voter constituting 3% of the total voters per municipality compromising their legislative districts.
Also present during said meeting was incumbent Ako Bicol Congressman Raul Angelo “Jil” Bongalon at Ellis Hotel, reputedly owned by Ako Bicol representative Elizaldy Co.
The initial purpose of this charter change by people’s initiative is to make the voting in the constituent assembly (Con-Ass) of representatives and senators or in calling for a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con)as joint voting in order to overwhelm by superiority of numbers the Senators by the Representatives.
The next phase of the Cha-Cha campaign may be the liberalization of the economic provisions of the Constitution purportedly to induce foreign direct investments and the extension of term limits of elected officials, both of which are not necessary and disruptive of collective efforts to address serious economic concerns which could not be remedied by Charter Change.
The buying of signatures for the petition on people’s initiative is a violation of the Sec. 261 of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to Sec. 19 of the Initiative and Referendum Act (RA No. 6735).
Sec. 19 of the Imitative and Referendum Act provides:
SEC. 19. Applicability of the Omnibus Election Code.—The Omnibus Election Code and other election laws, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, shall apply to all initiatives and referenda.
Sec. 261 of the Omnibus Election Code provides:
Section 261. Prohibited Acts. - The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(a) Vote-buying and vote-selling. –
(1) Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.
(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.
The Supreme Court rulings in Santiago v. Comelec and Lambino v. Comelec were cited as historical backdrop where people’s initiative had failed.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN