Charter Change and Anti-Charter Change advocates presented their oral arguments yesterday September 26, 2006 before the fifteen (15) justices of the Supreme Court.
Presenting the case for the petitioners were Sigaw ng Bayan Spokesperson Atty. Raul L. Lambino, former Associate Justice and Comelec Chairman Bernardo Pardo and Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo Nachura.
The petitioners anchored their arguments that the Supreme Court should recognize the Constitutional Rights of the 6.3 million registered voters to propose amendments to the Constitution, citing the provisions in Sec. 2, Art. XVII of the Constitution, Republic Act. No. 6735 and Comelec Resolution No. 2300.
The petitioners further submit that their instant petition is sufficient in form and substance and the Commission committed grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed their petition pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court in the Landmark case of Santiago vs. Comelec in 1997.
During the interpellation, Justice Angeline Sandoval Gutierrez asked Solicitor General Nachura if he will entrust the faith of the country to people he does not know. Nachura answered that he would because the processes has been followed and there are instances that it’s safer to trust one who does not know to one who knows. Gutierrez then asked why is he changing the system. Nachura said that he agreed to change because the presidential system is not satisfactory. Gutierrez left the question that how would there be any change if it would be the same people who would seat in the proposed parliamentary.
Presenting for the respondents on the other hand is a battery of lawyers composed of Senator Joker Arroyo and Atty. Pacifico Agabin representing the Senate, Atty. Neri Colminares representing BAYAN, former Senator Rene Saguisag for Mabini, Atty. Jose Anselmo Cadiz representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Dean Rufus Rodriguez representing ousted President Joseph Estrada, Atty. Alioden Dalaig for Comelec, Gov. Garcia and Atty. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
The counsel of the respondents argued that the instant petition of Sigaw ng Bayan has no legal foundation in view of the absence of an enabling law for its implementation pursuant to the decision of the High Court’s decision in the landmark case of Santiago vs. Comelec.
Atty. Lazaro cited that Atty. Lambino and Mr. Aumentado are the wrong parties to represent the people for not even one of the co-petitioners who signed in the signature sheets issued a special power of attorney to both. Sen. Rene Saguisag, on the other hand, averred that the people’s initiative is a collateral attack on what has already been thrice settled by the Supreme Court. Sen. Arroyo stated that the petitioners could have lobbied with the House of Representatives instead.
The counsel also claims that the legal requirement of at least 3% of the registered voters in every legislative district must be represented was not satisfied. Atty. Pimentel said that uniform set of rules and transparency is lacking in the signature verification process. He had certifications from the Election Officers in the legislative districts of Davao stating that they did not issue a certificate of verified signatures.
Another argument raised by the anti-charter change advocates is that though there are only two articles to be amended, more than 100 sections in the Constitution shall be affected. Atty. Medina posed the question of whether this is an amendment or a revision. He said that since what is being proposed is a change of structure then clearly it is a revision.
Atty. Cadiz of the IBP said that COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion because even if they did not come up with an advisory it does not mean there was grave abuse of discretion.
During the interpellation, the opposition counsel questioned the validity of the signatures, claiming that the signatures were obtained without properly informing what the propositions are. The signature sheets used did not contain the actual text or proposition of the proposed amendments and what was written instead is some sort of a survey question.