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2-16 Defensor-Santiago vs. COMELEC G.R. 127325, 19 March 1997 FACTS Private respondent Atty. Jesus S.

Delfin filed with public respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) a "Petition to Amend the Constitution, to Lift Term Limits of Elective Officials, by People's Initiative" (Delfin Petition) wherein Delfin asked that the COMELEC: (1) fix the time and dates for signature gathering all over the country; and (2) cause the necessary publications of the same in newspapers of general and local circulation. He based such on Article XVII, Section 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. Santiago et al. opposed on the ground that the constitutional provision on peoples initiative to amend the Constitution can only be implemented by law to be passed by Congress. No such law has been passed and R.A. 6735 does not suffice as an enabling law on peoples initiative on the Constitution, unlike in the other modes of initiative.

ISSUE Whether R.A. No. 6735, entitled An Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds Therefor, was intended to include or cover initiative on amendments to the Constitution; and if so, whether the Act, as worded, adequately covers such initiative.

RULING R.A. 6735 is inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution. The Act provides subtitles for National Initiative and Referendum and for Local Initiative and Referendum, no subtitle is provided for initiative on the Constitution. This conspicuous silence as to the latter simply means that the main thrust of the Act is initiative and referendum on national and local laws R.A. No. 6735 is incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on this substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by "empowering" the COMELEC "to promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of [the] Act. While R.A. No. 6735 exerted utmost diligence and care in providing for the details in the implementation of initiative and referendum on national and local legislation thereby giving them special attention, it failed, rather intentionally, to do so on the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution Under Section 2 of Article XVII of the Constitution and Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 6735, a petition for initiative on the Constitution must be signed by at least 12% of the total number of registered voters of which every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein. The Delfin Petition does not contain signatures of the required number of voters. Delfin himself admits that he has not yet gathered signatures and that the purpose of his petition is primarily to obtain assistance in his drive to gather signatures. Without the required signatures, the petition cannot be deemed validly initiated. Since the Delfin Petition is not the initiatory petition under R.A. No. 6735 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300, it cannot be entertained or given cognizance of by the COMELEC.