Press Release
April 17, 2006

Senate official appeals to election officers not to verify signatures

Lawyer Antonio Gallardo, chief of staff of the Office of the Senate President, yesterday appealed to regional and provincial officers of the Commission on Elections to follow the lead of the Comelec regional office in Metro Manila to stop the verification of signatures for the peoples initiative for charter change without clear guidelines from the commission en banc or from the Supreme Court.

"We are glad that the Comelec officials and employees in the Metro Manila region have the patriotism and the courage to adhere to the rule of law by obeying the Supreme Courts ruling that no peoples initiative to amend the Constitution can be held without an enabling act from Congress," Gallardo declared.

He referred to the statement of Comelec Metro Manila Regional Director Ferdinand Rafanan that the elections officers in the region cannot verify the signatures affixed in the petition for peoples initiative for lack of clear guidelines from the commission en banc, as well as a clarifying resolution from the Supreme Court.

Gallardo deplored that newly appointed Comelec Commissioner Romeo Brawner "should issue on his own authority, without the concurrence of other members of the commission, an order to election officers to immediately conduct the verification."

According to Gallardo, "this precipitate move of Commissioner Brawner unfortunately gives rise to the suspicion that he was appointed to his new post to precisely implement the improper designs and illegal orders of Malacañang , especially in regards to cha-cha. We say that it is unfortunate, because Commissioner Brawner has had a reputable career in the judiciary, which should not be smeared by mere suspicions."

Gallardo pointed out that the Comelec is a constitutional body that is independent of Malacanang and Congress. "The Comelec should not just obey any order from Malacanang, for it would mean that it has lost its independence and therefore has violated its constitutional duty. We are happy that there are courageous and patriotic people, especially in the lower ranks of the Comelec, who are willing to lay their careers on line for the sake of the rule of law."

Gallardo warned that "if the public should get the impression that this administration has abandoned the principle of the rule of law, for the unprincipled rule of men and women, then they might take the law into their own hands, and things will only get worse before they get better."

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