Only amendments, not constitutional revision allowed in people’s initiative — Carpio

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Only amendments, not constitutional revision allowed in people�s initiative � Carpio
This photo shows a picture inside the plenary hall of the House of Representatives.
The STAR / Boy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines — A people’s initiative can only amend certain provisions in the 1987 Constitution but cannot revise it, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Thursday.

Citing the 1987 Constitution and the decision Carpio wrote in the case of Lambino v Commission on Elections (Comelec), he said that only amendments can be applied to the Constitution if it is done through a people’s Initiative since a constitutional revision needs a deliberative body. 

“I strongly believe it is unconstitutional,” Carpio said in an interview with ANC.

"To revise the Constitution, you need a deliberative body. There must be debates, and you need a recorded proceeding. So that you have a record of what they meant…It's not practical to grant, to include the revision of Constitution, in a people's initiative, because there's no debate,” he added.

According to Article 17 of the Constitution, any amendment or revision of the charter may be done through a constitutional convention, assembly, or a people’s initiative. 

A constitutional amendment, according to Carpio, “refers to any change in the Constitution that adds, reduces, or deletes without altering the basic principle involved, and without affecting the substantial provisions of the Constitution.”

A revision, meanwhile, involves an overhaul or change of the principle of one or many provisions. 

There is a purported attempt to achieve a people's initiative, with signatures being collected in certain cities in the Philippines to support amendments to the “economic provisions” of the Constitution.

The gathered signatures are being counted by Comelec, despite no petition for a people’s initiative being filed before the election regulatory body.

One of the amendments desired through the people’s initiative is to allow the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Senate to jointly vote on the amended provisions in the Constitutional Assembly.

This proposal, according to the Senate, undermines the power of the upper chamber and removes the checks and balances in the legislative department. The 24-member chamber condemned the move, which they also claimed that some members of the HoR were behind it. 

House Speaker Martin Romuladez denied the accusations by some senators. 

This came days after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 which called for the review of the Constitution’s economic provisions covered by the amendments of the Public Service Act. 

Citing his penned decision in Lambino v Comelec, Carpio also said that altering the nature of the checks and balances in Congress is already considered a revision.

“There are several decisions in the US saying that, when you alter the check and balance in Congress or the government, that is a revision,” Carpio said.

Likening it to the passage of a law, Carpio noted that a provision to be amended or revised in the Constitution should be approved by the two houses of Congress.

Carpio also called on the Comelec to dismiss the petition in case one is filed before the election regulatory body, due to Comelec Resolution 10650, which only limits the people’s initiative to amendments to constitutional provisions.

“If it allows this petition, if it verifies the signature, the oppositors can go to the Supreme Court,” Carpio said. 

Comelec Resolution 10650 is the regulatory body’s rules and regulations on referendums and people’s initiative.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel said that he and other senators will assail Comelec’s move in accepting the signatures in the attempt to have a people’s initiative. 

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