People’s initiative advocates: 8 million signatures in 3 months

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the Senate’s rejection, proponents of Charter change through people’s initiative are still gathering required signatures and are hoping for a plebiscite by October.

“We can achieve 12 percent (signatures nationwide) and there could be an excess because on average, we collected 15 percent per legislative district,” People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) lead convenor Noel Oñate said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum yesterday.

Oñate expressed optimism they will obtain the required minimum of eight million signatures within two to three months, as they are exerting efforts for a plebiscite by September or October if it is no longer possible in July.

Since the launching of the signature drive on Jan. 2, Oñate said they gathered about 2.5 million signatures or 30 percent required for a plebiscite.

They only have to complete and submit the required signatures from the remaining 70 out of 254 congressional districts nationwide, he added.

People’s initiative proponents “coordinated” with congressmen for the gathering of required signatures, he admitted.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia said holding a plebiscite within the year is unlikely unless proponents can file the petition for a people’s initiative this month.

The poll body needs to prepare for the 2025 elections, he added.

No budget has been allocated for a plebiscite and P13 billion would be needed for the activity, he noted.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, Garcia said the Comelec had issued certificates to 192 legislative districts and 1,032 cities and municipalities that submitted signature pages.

Garcia said he is against village officials involved in signatures gathering.

During the same media forum, PIRMA legal counsel Evaristo Gana said they will not stop gathering signatures.

Gana said they collected 16 percent of voters’ signatures per legislative district, which is above the three percent minimum requirement.

Oñate and Gana said they are pushing for the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote jointly as a constituent assembly.

Gana denied PIRMA’s involvement in reported incidents of bribery. – Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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