Press Release
August 16, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the administration-backed peoples initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution should now be pronounced terminally dead after no less than Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos admitted that the poll body is permanently barred by a 1997 Supreme Court ruling from entertaining petitions for such political exercise in the absence of an adequate enabling law.

During a Senate hearing on the P1.6 billion supplemental appropriations for Comelec, Abalos told the finance committee that he poll body respects the high courts ruling that any peoples initiative to amend the Constitution now is invalid or illegal since Congress has not yet passed an enabling law to implement the constitutional provision on amending the Charter through peoples initiative.

The position taken by Chairman Abalos is a plus sign for him as person, Pimentel said.

The Comelec chairman was also quoted as saying that Comelec is not allowed to conduct verification of signatures for peoples initiative to amend the Charter due to a permanent injunction by the Supreme Court.

His stand that Comelec cannot entertain the validation of signatures taken by the initiators of the so-called peoples initiative to amend the Constitution deserves the applause of the people, Pimentel said.

Abalos was complimented by Pimentel on his pronouncement on the issue although he has disagreed with the Comelec chief in some things that the poll body under his chairman has done particularly in the P1.3 billion MegaPacific deal where the Comelec acquired 1,991 automated vote-counting machines by virtue of a contract that was invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The minority leader said there is another black stain on the record of Chairman Abalos as head of Comelec the appointment of associates of former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano who allegedly carried out the dagdag-bawas operations in Mindanao during the 2004 presidential elections.

The least that Abalos could have done was to refuse the appointment of at least four Garcillano boys to high positions in the Comelec, Pimentel said.

The election officers, who were allegedly part of Garcillanos group of special poll operators, were promoted to higher posts Comelec included Lawyer Rey Sumalipao, Regional Director, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Lawyer Renato Magbutay, Regional Director for Northern Mindanao; Lawyer Francisco Pobe, Asst. Regional Director of Caraga Region; and Lawyer Renault Macarambon, Chief of Comelecs Elections and Barangay Affairs, Manila.

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