Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Supreme Court Rejected Bogus People's Initiative

It’s a sweet victory of the Filipino people. The Philippine Supreme Court’s junking of bogus Sigaw-ULAP people's initiative is worst political defeat of Gloria Arroyo-Jose De Venecia. The next battle ground will be in 2007 midterm elections. The end of corrupt and inept Arroyo regime is expected soon. Yes, ROPE for Gloria! Hang ‘em high! An arm length manila rope is enough on Gloria’s neck. The de facto General Ermita- led civilian-military junta will crumble or a subsequent domino effect. The peoples’ court will decide their fate under the new regime. Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has redeemed himself or restored his reputation after his vital role in the “illegal” swearing-in of then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo as president of the republic in a successful Edsa Dos coup d’etat. Chief Justice Panganiban has sided with the people.


The people win, 8 to 7
SC: People’s Initiative ‘deceptive, misleading’

BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
How they voted
To reject:
Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio (the ponente), Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Romeo Callejo Sr., and Adolfo Azcuna. Panganiban, Santiago, Gutierrez, Callejo, and Azcuna wrote separate concurring opinions.
To grant:
Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno (writer of the dissenting opinion), Justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Renato Corona, Dante Tiñga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Cancio Garcia and Presbiterio Velasco Jr.
VOTING 8-7, the Supreme Court yesterday threw out the consolidated petitions for people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution, branding the Palace-backed proposal to shift to a unicameral parliamentary form of government as "deceptive and misleading."
In a 52-page en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the high court denied due course to what it called a "constitutionally infirm" petition for initiative jointly filed by Sigaw ng Bayan and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) led by Raul Lambino and Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado, respectively.
The SC said the initiative mounted by the Sigaw and ULAP called for a wholesale revision and not a mere amendment of the Constitution, thus, violating Section 2, Article 17 of the Constitution which limited the scope of a people’s initiative to mere amendments.
The high court said the petitioners failed to inform initiative signers of the nature and effect of the proposals. It said this is "deceptive and misleading, which renders the initiative void."
The SC also said the signature sheets do not contain a single word, phrase or sentence on the changes proposed by the Lambino group.
It cited Lambino’s admission during oral arguments last September 26 that the signature sheets do not state the text of the proposed changes.
"The unbending requirement is that the people must first see the full text of the proposed amendments before they sign to signify their assent and that the people must sign on an initiative petition that contains the full text of the proposed amendments," the SC ruled.
"An initiative that gathered signatures from the people without first showing to the people the full text of the proposed amendments is most likely a deception, and can operate as a gigantic fraud on the people," the Court added.
Concurring in the decision were Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Associate Justices Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Romeo Callejo Sr., and Adolfo Azcuna. Panganiban, Santiago, Gutierrez, Callejo, and Azcuna wrote separate concurring opinions.
The dissenting justices were Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno, Justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Renato Corona, Dante Tiñga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Cancio Garcia and Presbiterio Velasco Jr.
The dissent argued for a remand of the petition to the Comelec for verification of the over six million signatures. No one voted to grant the Lambino prayer to reverse the Comelec ruling on August 31 and subject the proposed constitutional changes to a plebiscite.
The Court said that having established the infirmity of the petition, there was no need to revisit the 1997 Santiago v Comelec ruling which stopped the Comelec from entertaining petitions for initiative for lack of an enabling law.
"Verily, the Supreme Court is now on the crossroads of history. By its decision, the Court and each of its members shall be judged by posterity. Ten years, fifty years, a hundred years – or even a thousand years – from now, what the Court did here, and how each justice opined and voted, will still be talked about, either in shame or in pride. Indeed, the hand-washing of Pontius Pilate, the abomination of Dred Scott, and the loathing of Javellana still linger and haunt to this day… Let not this case fall into the same damnation. Rather, let this Court be known throughout the nation and the world for its independence, integrity, industry and intelligence," Panganiban said.
Panganiban, who cast the deciding vote that broke the tie in the decision, was one of the six dissenting justices in the Santiago ruling.
He said his current stand is "completely consistent with previous opinions and votes."
The Court said that Lambino’s admission that he caused the printing of only 100,000 copies of the petition for initiative "binds the Lambino group and establishes beyond any doubt that they failed to show the full text of the proposed changes to the great majority of the people who signed the signature sheet."
Thus, of the 6.3 million signatories, only 100,000 signatories could have received with certainty each a copy of the petition.
In ruling that the Sigaw and ULAP petitions called for a revision, the Court said the proposed shift to a unicameral parliamentary system, the abolition of the Office of the President and one chamber of Congress would require changes in at least 105 provisions of the Constitution.
The SC said it cannot abandon its primordial duty to defend and protect the Constitution.
"The Constitution, which embodies the people’s sovereign will, is the bible of this Court. This Court exists to defend and protect the Constitution. To allow this constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter the basic principles in the Constitution is to allow a desecration of the Constitution. To allow such alteration and desecration is to lose this Court’s raison d’etre," the Court said.

The Court said the Constitution, being the fundamental law of the land, deserves the utmost respect and obedience of all the citizens of the nation. "No one can trivialize the Constitution by cavalierly amending or revising it in blatant violation of the clearly specified modes of amendment and revision laid down in the Constitution itself," it said.

The Court said that to allow such change in the fundamental law "is to set adrift the Constitution in unchartered waters, to be tossed and turned by every dominant political group of the day."

"If this Court allows today a cavalier change in the Constitution outside the constitutionally prescribed modes, tomorrow the new dominant political group that comes will demand its own set of changes in the same cavalier and unconstitutional fashion. A revolving-door constitution does not augur well for the rule of law in this country."

The Court said "incantations of ‘people’s voice,’ ‘people’s sovereign will,’ or ‘let the people decide’ cannot override the specific modes of changing the Constitution as prescribed in the Constitution itself." "Otherwise, the Constitution – the people’s fundamental covenant that provides enduring stability to our society – becomes easily susceptible to manipulative changes by political groups gathering signatures through false promises. Then, the Constitution ceases to be the bedrock of the nation’s stability," it added.

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