Bato prods Comelec to help Filipinos tricked to sign people’s initiative forms

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Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to provide options for the Filipinos who were tricked to sign the signature forms for the controversial people’s initiative (PI) that seeks to abolish the Senate. 

At the continuation of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation’s investigation into the alleged signature-buying for PI on Tuesday, Dela Rosa recalled the concerns of Davaoeños who already signed the sheets. 

“During our last hearing in Davao City, galit na galit ‘yung mga tao na nakapirma. Gustong-gusto nilang bawiin ‘yung pirma nila,” Dela Rosa told the Comelec officials. 

“It is incumbent on your part as Comelec na sana gawan ninyo ng aksyon dahil ‘yung mga tao doon sa Davao, kumpara sa manok pa, nagpapanikad na ba, ‘yung gumagano’n na, gusto na talagang sumugod sa Comelec Elections Officer’s Office para kunin ‘yung kanilang pirma,” he added. 

Citing Comelec Chairman George Garcia’s previous statement that there are no existing rules covering the withdrawal of signatures on PI efforts, Dela Rosa shared that the regional director cannot help his fellow Davaoeños in retracting their support for the said initiative.

“Halimbawa, ‘yung mga election officers doon ‘no na nagbigay ng certification, na nag-receive sa signatures, naawa sila sa mga tao. Kasi kababayan nila eh. Ayaw nila na ‘yung mga kababayan nila, maisahan. Ayaw nila na ‘yung kababayan nila maloko…‘Pag ibalik nila, are they liable criminally or at the very least, administratively, as far as your office is concerned kung gagawin nila ‘yan?” Dela Rosa asked. 

Garcia explained that there will be no criminal liability since there are no existing rules with regard to the withdrawal of the signatures but there might be administrative liabilities under Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. 

To address this immediately, Garcia told Dela Rosa that the Comelec will issue guidelines to their local offices to guide their election officers in handling cases of withdrawal of signatures. 

The Mindanaoan lawmaker thanked Garcia for this commitment as he emphasized that giving false hopes that individuals could get social aid in exchange for their signatures is an “injustice on the part of the ordinary people.”

“Please bilisan niyo ‘yan para mabigyan niyo ng guidelines ‘yung mga tao niyo doon sa baba dahil ‘yung mga tao naman niyo sa baba, they’re willing to do that kung may clearance sa’yo,” Dela Rosa urged. 

The Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation launched a series of investigation after Dela Rosa and several other senators questioned what they called a “politician’s initiative.”

Dela Rosa also joined the members of the upper chamber in signing a manifesto which opposed the people’s initiative, as this attempts to dilute the powers of the Senate.

The signature campaign for people’s initiative seeks to amend Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution to allow members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to vote jointly in a constituent assembly.

The lawmaker earlier pointed out that this people’s initiative will erode the checks and balances in the bicameral system of the Legislative Department.

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