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DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO vs.

COMELEC
(G.R. No. 127325 - March 19, 1997)

Facts:
Private respondent Atty. Jesus Delfin, president of People’s Initiative for Reforms,
Modernization and Action (PIRMA), filed with COMELEC a petition to amend the constitution to lift
the term limits of elective officials, through People’s Initiative. He based this petition on Article XVII,
Sec. 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides for the right of the people to exercise the power to
directly propose amendments to the Constitution. Subsequently the COMELEC issued an order
directing the publication of the petition and of the notice of hearing and thereafter set the case for
hearing. At the hearing, Senator Roco, the IBP, Demokrasya-Ipagtanggol ang Konstitusyon, Public
Interest Law Center, and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino appeared as intervenors-oppositors.
Senator Roco filed a motion to dismiss the Delfin petition on the ground that one which is cognizable
by the COMELEC. The petitioners herein Senator Santiago, Alexander Padilla, and Isabel Ongpin
filed this civil action for prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court against COMELEC and the
Delfin petition rising the several arguments, such as the following: (1) The constitutional provision on
people’s initiative to amend the constitution can only be implemented by law to be passed by
Congress. No such law has been passed; (2) The people’s initiative is limited to amendments to the
Constitution, not to revision thereof. Lifting of the term limits constitutes a revision, therefore it is
outside the power of people’s initiative. The Supreme Court granted the Motions for Intervention.

Issues:
(1) Whether or not Sec. 2, Art. XVII of the 1987 Constitution is a self-executing provision.

(2) Whether or not COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 regarding the conduct of initiative on
amendments to the Constitution is valid, considering the absence in the law of specific provisions on
the conduct of such initiative.

(3) Whether the lifting of term limits of elective officials would constitute a revision or an
amendment of the Constitution.

Held:
Sec. 2, Art XVII of the Constitution is not self executory, thus, without implementing
legislation the same cannot operate. Although the Constitution has recognized or granted the right,
the people cannot exercise it if Congress does not provide for its implementation.

The portion of COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 which prescribes rules and regulations on the
conduct of initiative on amendments to the Constitution, is void. It has been an established rule that
what has been delegated, cannot be delegated (potestas delegata non delegari potest). The
delegation of the power to the COMELEC being invalid, the latter cannot validly promulgate rules
and regulations to implement the exercise of the right to people’s initiative.

The lifting of the term limits was held to be that of a revision, as it would affect other
provisions of the Constitution such as the synchronization of elections, the constitutional guarantee
of equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibiting political dynasties. A revision
cannot be done by initiative. However, considering the Court’s decision in the above Issue, the issue
of whether or not the petition is a revision or amendment has become academic.