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Lambino vs COMELEC G.R. No.

174153 - Case Digest


Lambino vs COMELEC

G.R. No. 174153 October 25, 2006

FACTS:

On 25 August 2006, Lambino et al filed a petition with the COMELEC to hold a


plebiscite that will ratify their initiative petition to change the 1987 Constitution under
Section 5(b) and (c)2 and Section 73 of Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and
Referendum Act.

The Lambino Group alleged that their petition had the support of 6,327,952
individuals constituting at least twelve per centum (12%) of all registered voters, with
each legislative district represented by at least three per centum (3%) of its
registered voters. The Lambino Group also claimed that COMELEC election
registrars had verified the signatures of the 6.3 million individuals.

The Lambino Group’s initiative petition changes the 1987 Constitution by modifying
Sections 1-7 of Article VI (Legislative Department)4 and Sections 1-4 of Article VII
(Executive Department) and by adding Article XVIII entitled “Transitory Provisions.”
These proposed changes will shift the present Bicameral-Presidential system to a
Unicameral-Parliamentary form of government.

On 30 August 2006, the Lambino Group filed an Amended Petition with the
COMELEC indicating modifications in the proposed Article XVIII (Transitory
Provisions) of their initiative.

The COMELEC denied the petition citing Santiago v. COMELEC declaring RA 6735
inadequate to implement the initiative clause on proposals to amend the
Constitution.

ISSUES:

1. Whether the Lambino Group’s initiative petition complies with Section 2, Article
XVII of the Constitution on amendments to the Constitution through a people’s
initiative;

2. Whether this Court should revisit its ruling in Santiago declaring RA 6735
“incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions” to implement
the initiative clause on proposals to amend the Constitution; and

HELD:

1. The Initiative Petition Does Not Comply with Section 2, Article XVII of the
Constitution on Direct Proposal by the People

Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution is the governing constitutional provision


that allows a people’s initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution. This
section states:
Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the
people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total
number of registered voters of which every legislative district must be represented by
at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. x x x x (Emphasis
supplied)

The framers of the Constitution intended that the “draft of the proposed constitutional
amendment” should be “ready and shown” to the people “before” they sign such
proposal. The framers plainly stated that “before they sign there is already a draft
shown to them.” The framers also “envisioned” that the people should sign on the
proposal itself because the proponents must “prepare that proposal and pass it
around for signature.”

The essence of amendments “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon
a petition” is that the entire proposal on its face is a petition by the people. This
means two essential elements must be present. First, the people must author and
thus sign the entire proposal. No agent or representative can sign on their behalf.
Second, as an initiative upon a petition, the proposal must be embodied in a petition.

These essential elements are present only if the full text of the proposed
amendments is first shown to the people who express their assent by signing such
complete proposal in a petition. Thus, an amendment is “directly proposed by the
people through initiative upon a petition” only if the people sign on a petition that
contains the full text of the proposed amendments.

There is no presumption that the proponents observed the constitutional


requirements in gathering the signatures. The proponents bear the burden of proving
that they complied with the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures –
that the petition contained, or incorporated by attachment, the full text of the
proposed amendments.

The Lambino Group did not attach to their present petition with this Court a copy of
the paper that the people signed as their initiative petition. The Lambino Group
submitted to this Court a copy of a signature sheet after the oral arguments of 26
September 2006 when they filed their Memorandum on 11 October 2006.

2. A Revisit of Santiago v. COMELEC is Not Necessary

The present petition warrants dismissal for failure to comply with the basic
requirements of Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution on the conduct and scope
of a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution. There is no need to revisit this
Court’s ruling in Santiago declaring RA 6735 “incomplete, inadequate or wanting in
essential terms and conditions” to cover the system of initiative to amend the
Constitution. An affirmation or reversal of Santiago will not change the outcome of
the present petition. Thus, this Court must decline to revisit Santiago which
effectively ruled that RA 6735 does not comply with the requirements of the
Constitution to implement the initiative clause on amendments to the Constitution.
Lambino vs. COMELEC, G.R. No.
174153, October 25, 2006
FACTS:

On August 25, 2006, the Lambino Group filed a petition with the COMELEC to hold
plebiscite that will ratify their initiative petition under Section 5(b) and (c) and Section 7 of
RA 6735.

The Lambino Group claims that their petition has the support of 6,327,952 individuals
satisfying the requirement that the signatories of the petition constitute 12% of all registered
voters with each legislative district represented by at least 3% of its registered voters.

The Lambino Group’s initiative petition modifies Sections 1-7 of Article VI and Sections 1-4
of Article VII of the Constitution and adds Article XVIII entitled ‘Transitory Provisions” to it
shifting the country’s form of government from Bicameral-Presidential to Unicameral-
Parliamentary.

Days later, the Lambino Group filed an amended petition with the COMELEC. However, the
COMELEC issued its resolution denying due course to the Lambino Groups’s petition
invoking Santiago v. Commission on Elections, which found RA 6735 as inadequate, in
stating that there is no enabling law governing initiative petitions such as that of the Lambino
Group to amend the Constitution.

The Lambino Group is petitioning for the issuance of writs of certiorari and mandamus to set
aside the COMELEC Resolution of August 31, 2006 and to compel the COMELEC to give
due course to their initiative petition. The petitioners and supporting intervenors hold the
view that COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in relying on Santiago.

Opposing intervenors maintain that Santiago is a binding precedent and they also challenge:

 The Lambino Group’s standing to file the petition


 The validity of the signature gathering and verification process
 The Lambino Group’s compliance with Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution The
nature of the proposed changes as revisions and not mere amendments.
 The Lambino Group’s compliance with RA 6735 limiting initiative petitions to only
one subject.

ISSUES:

1. Whether the Lambino Group’s initiative petition complied with Section 2, Article XVII of
the Constitution – NO.
2. Whether the Court should revisit its ruling on Santiago v. COMELEC which declared RA
6735 “incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions” to implement the
initiative clause proposals to amend the Constitution – NO

3. Whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in denying due course to the
Lambino Group’s petition – NO.

RATIO:

1. The Lambino Group failed to comply with Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution.

a. The petition is not directly proposed by the people.

The Lambino Group’s Initiative does comply with the requirement that the amendment be
“directly proposed by the people upon a petition” because the Lambino group failed to
present the full text of the proposed changes to the Constitution to the signatories and thus it
cannot be assumed that the signatories had knowledge of the full nature and effect of the
changes they were supporting. Given that the Initiative first gathered signatures without
showing the full text of the proposed amendments, it can be seen as a “gigantic fraud on the
people.”

While Section 2, Article XVII does not explicitly state that the full text of proposed
amendments to the constitution should be presented to the people before they sign the
petition, as shown on the record of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, it was
the intent of the framers that an amendment is “directly proposed by the people through
initiative upon a petition” only if the people sign on a petition that contains the full text of the
proposed amendments.

A signature requirement would be meaningless if the signatories have not first been informed
of the full extent of the proposal he/she is signing, and that the attachment of the full text
proposal would provide the assumption that people would be informed in their decision
whether to sign or not.

Moreover, the signature sheet submitted by the Lambino Group to the Court does not contain
the full text of the proposed changes to the Constitution; instead, the signature sheet merely
asks whether the people approve a shift from a Bicameral-Presidential to a Unicameral-
Parliamentary system of government.

The petitioners alleged that they circulated the draft of their 30 August 2006 amended
petition during the signature gathering from February to August 2006, having the Court
believe that they prepared their amended petition almost seven months earlier in February
2006 and even before they filed their 25 August 2006 petition. While Aumentado gives as
evidence ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02, as proof that the amended petition was circulated
six months before the petitions were filed, ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02 does not authorize
petitioner Aumentado to prepare the petitions, rather, it only states that ULAP “supports the
proposals of the Consultative Commission on Charter Change” which are vastly different
from the proposals of the Lambino Group, thus the ULAP Resolution does not establish that
the Lambino Group circulated the draft of the petition.

There is inconsistency in the story of the Lambino Group as it was first stated that they
circulated both the 25 August 2006 petion and the 30 August 2006 amended petion; however,
Atty. Lambino later changed the story stating that only the amended petition was circulated.

Even with the assumption that the amended petition was indeed circulated while the
signatures were being gathered it could still be concluded that there would not be enough
copies of the petition for all the signatories to see. As per Atty. Lambino’s own admission
only 100,000 copies could be confirmed to have been printed as these were printed by
Lambino himself. Assuming that each signature sheet, which had space for 10 signatures,
was attached with a copy of the petition, there would be enough copies for only 1 million
people, far from the 6,327,952 signatures gathered by the Lambino Group.

Having proved that majority of the signatories were not able to see the full text of the of the
proposed changes proposed signing, they could not have known the full nature and effect of
the proposed changes which include three controversial amendments:

 The lifting of term limits on the members of the legislature.


 The interim Parliament will continue to function indefinitely until it decides to call for
parliamentary elections thus enabling its members to determine when they will end
their term.
 Within 45 days after the proposed changes, the interim Parliament will convene to
propose further amendments to the constitution.

This provision is determined by the Court to be totally unrelated to the stated objective of the
initiative and is considered logrolling.

Logrolling refers to the incorporation of an unrelated subject matter in the same petition thus
creating two propositions within one petition thus putting the people in a dilemma where
since they can only say yes or no to the whole petition they cannot agree to one proposition
without also agreeing to the other.

Logrolling confuses and even deceives the people.

While Atty. Lambino states that this provision is not necessary and should thus be ignored,
the Court does not agree since this provision could effectively invalidate the whole exercise
of the people’s initiative as through this provision the interim Parliament could, in theory,
propose amendments not agreed upon by the signatories of the initial petition.

b. People’s initiative can only be done for constitutional amendments and not revisions.

Based on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, the framers intentionally made
a distinction between amendments and revisions. It was the intent, as is written, that only
Congress or a constitutional convention can propose revisions while a people’s initiative is
limited only to the proposal of amendments.
A revision implies a change that alters a basic principle in the constitution while amendment
refers to a change that adds, reduces, or deletes, without altering the basic principle of the
constitution. A change in a single word could already be considered a revision as long as it
overhauls the structure of government and the ideological basis of the Constitution.

There are two tests to determine whether a change is an amendment or a revision:

 Quantitative test – examines the number of provisions, not the degree of change, in
order to test how extensive the proposed changes are.
 Qualitative test – based on qualitative effects, asks whether the proposed changes create
far reaching changes in the nature of the basic governmental plan thus amounting to a
revision.

The prosed changes by the Lambino Group significantly alter the basic plan of government as
it would effectively alter the separation of powers through the abolition of the Office of the
President and merging of the legislative and executive, and alter the system of checks and
balances within the legislature through the abolition of one chamber of Congress.

Under both quantitative and qualitative tests, the Lambino Group’s proposed changes
constitute a revision and not simply an amendment as it “radically alters the framework of
government set forth in the Constitution.

The Court states that since the proposed changes constitute a revision and would require far-
reaching amendments in not just the specified articles and provisions but also in several
others, a deliberative body with recorded proceedings would be the best vehicle to undertake
them, as was intended by the framers and is stated in the constitution, and not a people’s
initiative.

2. There is no need to revisit the Court’s ruling in Santiago since an affirmation or


reversal of the said ruling would not change the outcome of this petition.

Even if it is assumed RA 6735 is valid, contrary to the ruling in Santiago, the outcome of the
Lambino Group’s petition would not change since before referring to RA 6735 a petition
must first comply with Section 2, Article XVII, and as was previously established, it does
not.

The Lambino Group’s petition also does not comply with RA 6735. Indeed, It violates
Section 5(b) of RA 6735 requiring that the signatories, consistitng of 12% of the total number
of registered voters, sign the petition since it has already been established that the 6 million
signatories only signed a signature sheet and not the petition itself.

It also violates Section 10(a) of RA 6735, which states that no more than 1 subject can be
embraced by a petition, through its provision which mandates the interim Parliament to
propose further amendments which as determined earlier is unrelated to the subject of a shift
from presidential to parliamentary form of government.
3. The COMELEC did not commit a grave of abuse of discretion in dismissing the
Lambino Group’s Initiative petition.

Since the COMELEC merely followed the Court’s ruling in Santiago, the Commission did
not gravely abuse its discretion.

DISSENTING OPINION:

Puno, J.

The doctrine of stare decisis does not bar the examination of Santiago on the following
grounds:

 In the Santiago ruling, the court ruled RA 6735 as insufficient but if did not strike it
down as unconstitutional, by doing so the Court “usurped the exclusive right of
legislators to determine how far laws implementing constitutional mandates should be
crafted,” defying the principle that courts cannot dictate on Congress the style on
writing laws and in doing so rendered an intolerable ruling.
 The ruling in Santiago involves the sovereignty of the people.
 The ruling should not impede the will of the 6.3 million signatories.

RA 6735 is sufficient to implement the people’s initiative.

 The intent of the legislators in enacting RA 6735 was the implementation of the right of
the people to propose amendments to the Constitution through direct action.
 The court has the duty to give effect to the intent.
 Only implementing details were omitted from RA 6735 and not fundamental principles.
The implementing details of a law can be delegated to the COMELEC.
 The proposed changes are amendments and can be undertaken through people’s
initiative

Using the same quantitative test it could be argued that since only 2 out of the 18 articles of
the 1987 constitution will be changed and thus the big bulk of the 1987 Constitution would
remain unaffected.

 Based on the work of Garner, who says that a good constitution is composed of the
constitution of liberty, constitution of government, and constitution of sovereignty, the
proposed changes only affect the constitution of government and even then the changes
do not change the fundamental nature of our state as a democratic and republican state.
 According to Dean Vicente G. Sincon, revision refers to a consideration of the entire
constitution while amendment refers only to particular provisions to be added to or
altered in a constitution. This traditional distinction guided our people when they
effected changes in the 1935 and 1975 Constitutions.

The court should let the voice of the people be heard.


 The petition for people’s initiative is but the first step towards the amendment of the
constitution. The petition, if approved, does not constitute already the amendment of
the constitution. It will still require debate and deliberation of the people, as well as
ratification by majority of the people. Every step of the way it is the people who should
decide, the court should not prohibit them from doing so.