March 3, 2024

The Commission on Elections on Jan. 29 announced it has indefinitely suspended the acceptance of signature sheets in connection with the move to amend the constitution through People’s Initiative (PI).

Comelec Chairperson George Garcia said they decided to stop accepting signatures as they want to review first the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

“The Commission en banc came up with a unanimous decision to suspend any and all proceedings concerning the People’s Initiative. We will suspend all processes, even the local Comelec’s acceptance of signature sheets,” he said.

“Based on our assessment, we need to review, enhance, and amend our IRR regarding the People’s Initiative. In our opinion, there are things that are missing and not in our guidelines,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said Comelec’s move is the “success of the people.”

“Our fight is not yet done. Let us continue to pray and observe to ensure that our constitution, which is the soul of our country, is safe,” he said in a statement.

“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. Let us diffuse the heated situation,” Senator JV Ejercito added.

Senator Grace Poe said the poll body is on the “correct path” with its decision which should now put to rest the signature drive “so we can all train our sights on the urgent needs of the Filipinos.”

Senator Nancy Binay called for vigilance against more possible signature collection drives.

“Let us be observant and let us not allow ourselves to be fooled,” Binay said.

All 24 senators signed a manifesto last week, expressing their disapproval of the People’s Initiative, which allegedly involves bribery and other illegal activities.

Garcia said halting the acceptance of signature sheets is necessary to avoid problems, chaos, and misunderstandings in the interpretation of rules.

He said a panel will review the rules, to be headed by the executive director and law department director.

“At the same time, we are going to consult with everybody concerning the rules. Kailangan maliwanag sa rules when you say amendment, revision of the entire Constitution,” he said.

He said signature sheets received by city and municipal election officers will stay with Comelec.

“If the proponents think they should be withdrawn first and they should keep it, that’s okay. That will be included in our instruction. We will gladly give them back,” he said.

The Comelec has received signature sheets from 209 out of the 254 legislative districts so far, equivalent to about seven million signatures, Garcia said.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri commended the legislative districts that did not submit the results of People’s Initiative in their areas.

In his privilege speech, he thanked President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. for upholding the bicameralism between the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the Comelec for its decision. Zubiri said he met with Marcos on Jan. 29 morning before his departure for a two-day state visit to Vietnam. – PNA