Press Release
January 19, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today warned against the siphoning of public funds to the peoples initiative to be spearheaded by local government officials to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Pimentel said it would be patently illegal to tap the government coffers for the peoples initiative since this is intended, under the 1987 Constitution, to be a purely private effort of registered voters.

In fact, he argued that it will be in violation of the constitutional intent if the governors, mayors and other local officials, under the umbrella of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), will take the lead role in carrying out this mode of amending the Constitution and in gathering the required number of signatures in all congressional districts.

A peoples initiative will cost a lot of money. The organizers will have to pay for the expenses incurred in the information campaign, community meetings and solicitation of signatures. Where will they get the funds for this very expensive political exercises? the minority leader said.

Earlier, Pimentel charged that the reenactment of the 2005 national budget, as an offshoot of the continued delay in the enactment of the 2006 budget, will enable the Palace to divert public funds for the administrations Charter Change drive.

He warned of the repetition of the dubious practice in past fiscal years in which the reenacted budget was virtually converted into a pork barrel of the President that was used to buy the support of members of Congress for her electoral bid and for foiling the impeachment complaints against her.

Pimentel also said that ULAP and the leagues of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays had been used as conduits for channeling public funds for partisan political activities, including mass buying of votes in the 2004 elections.

This malpractice is very likely to be repeated in the peoples initiative that ULAP is planning to launch next month, he said.

Pimentel also warned that the use of public funds could be a ground to nullify the peoples initiative.

He recalled that during the previous attempt to amend the Constitution in 1997 through peoples initiative to remove the ban against the reelection of an incumbent president, the organizers has at least the decency to put up a private organization called Peoples Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA).

Pimentel maintained that the move of ULAP to launch a peoples initiative is bound to fail because of constitutional obstacles.

He pointed out that the system peoples initiative was intended by the framers of the Constitution to apply only to minor or simple amendments and not to wholesale revision of the Constitution that aims to adopt a parliamentary system of government.

Pimentel cited the opinion of legal experts: It would be practically impossible to conduct an overall review and revision of the Constitution through the action of the entire electoral population. Revision can rationally be done only by a deliberative body convened for that purpose.

Moreover, he said the Supreme Court in March, 1997 held that Republic Act 6735, the law on peoples initiative and referendum, is insufficient to cover the system of peoples initiative envisioned under the 1987 Constitution. The high court ruled that RA 6735 covers only initiatives to amend national and local laws.

The Supreme Court, in the same decision, said that the Commission on Elections should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.

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