People’s Initiative (or "PI") is a common appellative in the Philippines that refers to either a mode for constitutional amendment provided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution or to the act of pushing an initiative (national or local) as allowed by the Philippine Initiative and Referendum Act of 1987. The appellative also refers to the product of either of those initiatives.
The provision in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines allowing for a "people's initiative" as one of the modes for constitutional amendment has been called the "people's initiative clause". The other two modes allowed by the Constitution involve either a Constituent Assembly (or "Con-Ass") or a Constitutional Convention (or "Con-Con"), both of which also allow a total revision of the charter.
The appellation (also known as "PI") also refers to the act allowed by the law-given right of the Filipino people to directly initiate statutes and/or call for referenda on both the national and local government level.
- 1 In reference to Constitutional amendment initiatives
- 2 In reference to statute and referendum initiatives
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
In reference to Constitutional amendment initiatives
The process of amending the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines is popularly known to many Filipinos as Charter Change. Any proposed amendment or revision to this same Constitution shall only be valid when ratified by the majority of Filipinos in a plebiscite.
Under Article XVII, Sec.2 of the said Constitution, it states:
“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 votes therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.
“The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.”
An enabling law for this Article XVII, Section 2 Philippine Constitutional provision, called the Initiative and Referendum Act, was authored in 1987 by senators Raul Roco (Aksyon Demokratiko) and Neptali Gonzales (Liberal Party) and was passed by the Eighth Congress of the Philippines in 1989. The law provides for the implementation of the exercise of the people's right to initiate a petition to amend the Constitution, with the Election Registrar of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) tasked under this law with the verification of the petition signatures' being by at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters in the state.
In reference to statute and referendum initiatives
People's Initiative (PI) can also refer to the act culled from the right of the people of the Philippines to directly initiate statutes as well as call for referenda on both the national and local government level, a right given likewise by the Initiative and Referendum Act of 1987, otherwise known as Republic Act 6735.
The 2014 People's Initiative Against Pork Barrel
From late June to early August 2014, a People's Initiative Against Pork Barrel (PIAP) was repeatedly announced as up for launch in a forthcoming August 23 "people's congress" in Cebu City. The initiative is a multi-sectoral alliance-driven petition to criminalize pork barrel fund creation and spending, led by Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma, the broad #AbolishPorkMovement, the Catholic Church-backed Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System, the Church People's Alliance Against Pork Barrel, ePIRMA, the Makabayan Coalition (principally through Bayan Muna party-list representative Neri Colmenares), the Solidarity for Transformation, Youth Act Now, the Scrap Pork Network, and former Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The Cebu congress was immediately followed by a signature rally at the Luneta Park on August 25, 2014. The initiative would be the first to attempt to create a citizens-deriving statute in the Philippines.
Prior to the PIAP, in the aftermath of the Priority Development Assistance Fund Scam of 2013 and the Million People March and other protests that followed, an exploratory "people's congress" to draft an initiative on public fund spending and security was convened by the ePIRMA (Empowered People's Initiative and Reform Movement Alliance) at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center on November 9, 2013, with Puno, Colmenares and ePIRMA legal-team head Jose M. Roy III leading the conference with various representatives from various groups coming from all over the country. The alliance later scheduled its first draft to be completed by January 2014 while awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the "presidential pork" disbursements under the Aquino government's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Petitions against the PDAF were filed with the Supreme Court by the Social Justice Society on August 28, 2013, by Greco Belgica et al. on September 3, 2013, and by Pedrito Nepomuceno on September 5, 2013. Petitions against the DAP were filed with the Supreme Court by nine separate groups of petitioners between October 7 and November 7, 2013. The petitioners included the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, GABRIELA Women's Party, Bayan Muna, Ang Kapatiran, and Belgica, among others. The Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional on November 19, 2013 and came out with a decision on the DAP seven and a half months later, on July 1, 2014, declaring basic parts of the program unconstitutional.
Under the PIAP's proposed Pork Barrel Abolition Act, all budgets submitted to any legislative body shall contain only itemized appropriations, except funds for relief and rescue operations during calamities, and funds for intelligence work. The proposed legislation also calls for the abolition of the Presidential Social Fund, which has also been described as a form of pork barrel. Violators would be banned for life from holding public office.
On November 25, 2014, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Philippine Commission on Elections received the first 10,000 signatures from the initiative thrust in Quezon City. The signatures were from the city's first six districts, a first installment of the required 177,000 signatures from the entire city territory. Meanwhile, PIAP - Metro Manila coordinator Mark Lui Aquino said they have yet to submit to the Comelec the 50,000 to 100,000 signatures they have gathered in the metropolis. PIAP - Quezon City spokesperson Malou Turalde said, however, that Quezon City is not the first to submit gathered signatures for the initiative to the Comelec, adding that other legislative districts "just want to be quiet." Aquino also expressed fear that the "Comelec seems unready." adding that based on his group's monitoring, the Comelec offices in the different cities and municipalities “do not know what to do with the signatures.”
Malacañang's resistance to the initiative
On September 4, 2014, Rep. Neri Colmenares announced that the ruling Liberal Party of the Aquino government is trying to undermine the people's initiative against the pork barrel system. During his interpellation on the same day at the Philippine Congress budget committee hearing on the 2015 budget for the Philippine Commission on Elections, Colmenares noticed that the Malacañang Palace and its allies in Congress took out the budget they earlier placed for a charter change (Cha-Cha) referendum they were planning to launch. Colmenares asked that the budget be reinserted for the people's initiative plebiscite, but budget committee vice-chair Dakila Cua (Liberal Party, formerly Lakas Kampi CMD) opined that Colmenares' motion should be made during the committee deliberations on the budget. A number of Liberal Party leaders and spokesmen earlier announced their wish to amend the Constitution in order to allow President Benigno Aquino III to run for reelection; in the current Constitution, the President cannot run again for the same office after a single six-year term.
Furthermore, anti-pork barrel groups noted that the Aquino government had drafted a national budget for 2015 that still contains "pork" in the form of "special purpose funds," thus ignoring the earlier SC ruling on such funds' unconstitutionality as well as salient points in the PIAP. The groups further noted that this pork budget allocation has ballooned to PHP27 billion from last year's PHP25 billion. The groups are urging Congress to junk the budget. On November 25 at the Senate plenary session tackling the said budget, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised the same points against it raised by the Makabayan group in the House of Representative hearings, boosting the Makabayan position.
In January 2015, Archbishop Palma reiterated the importance of the initiative due to the fact that although the Supreme Court has already declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), as unconstitutional funds, senators and congressmen continue to enjoy discretionary funds in other forms.
Assassination of an anti-pork barrel campaigner
On September 29, 2014, minutes after the anti-pork barrel forum in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, that also launched the PIAP in the province, Dexter Ian Selebrado, 32, of the group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas - Davao del Norte (Farmers' Movement of the Philippines - Davao del Norte) and one of the local campaigners against the pork barrel system, was attacked by motorcycle-riding gunmen. As of October 1, the farmer-activist was still in critical condition.
Politicians' resistance to the initiative
In his January 2015 conference with the press, Archbishop Palma lamented the intervention of politicians in the turnout at signature centers in his parishes. Apart from a lack of knowledge about the pork barrel, said Palma, a low turnout was also a result of families who had children enrolled in schools under politicians’ scholarships refusing to sign the petition. Turnout results in other dioceses were also not good, he said. He promised, however, that the Church will not be disheartened, citing the strong support of people in such dioceses as Calbayog City's.
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