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Monday, April 15, 2024

Comelec shifts Cha-cha tack

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Now favors plebiscite to go with 2025 polls, cites P13b in savings

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said it now favors holding a synchronized plebiscite to ratify proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution with the 2025 national and local elections.

Comelec chairman George Garcia said holding simultaneous plebiscite and election will save the poll body P13 billion.

He made the statement a day after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the President aired his desire to have the plebiscite on Charter amendments held simultaneously with the 2025 polls.

Garcia earlier said Comelec cannot plebiscite next year to amend the 1987 Constitution given that there are already two scheduled polls in 2025.

“You cannot squeeze in a plebiscite in the middle of an election. Even prior to 2025, you cannot do that… And we cannot divert any of the funds in the possession of Comelec. That is contained in the General Appropriation Act,” he said in an earlier interview.

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Garcia previously cited a Supreme Court ruling which states that the Comelec “cannot include a plebiscite for the amendment of the constitution on a regular election.”

But the Comelec chief yesterday said simultaneous elections can be done as long as it is indicated in the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 and No. 7 of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“As long as it’s stated in the Resolution of both Houses, if ever, [it can proceed]. The Resolution should also indicate the provisions to be amended in the Constitution,” Garcia said.

The poll body is currently preparing for the May 2025 midterm elections and the December 2025 barangay elections.

Efforts to amend the Charter through a people’s initiative, constitutional convention, or a constituent assembly would culminate in a plebiscite.

Garcia said the poll body can hold the plebiscite together with the May midterm elections with no additional expenses.

It will, however, request additional allowances for teachers who will man the voting precincts.

“We have also designed a sample ballot with a plebiscite question. Our machines can handle a yes or no question on the ballot as well,” he said.

Zubiri on Monday disclosed the President also asked Senator Sonny Angara to look at the legal possibilities to convince the Comelec to add a rider question on the back page of the ballot for the plebiscite.

The House of Representatives said it would adopt the Senate’s Charter change measure – RBH No. 6 – in full and without any changes to dispel doubts on the push to amend restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“To dispel doubts that the efforts of the House of Representatives in pushing for the amendment of the economic provisions of the Constitution are politically motivated, we are adopting all the three proposed amendments of the Senate version of Resolution of Both Houses 6, in toto,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

The Lower Chamber’s RBH No. 7 is almost an exact reproduction of RBH No. 6, introduced by Zubiri and Senators Loren Legarda and Juan Edgardo Angara in the Senate.

They are both entitled “A Resolution of Both Houses of Congress proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, particularly on Articles 12, 14 and 16” which cover public services, education, and the advertising industry.

RBH 6, however, is pushing for a separate vote of both chambers of Congress in approving the amendments while RBH 7 is seeking a joint vote.

As this developed, a legislator from Mindanao on Tuesday said the plebiscite should be held before the 2025 midterm elections to avoid politicizing the issue.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong said the Charter change push might be used as a campaign slogan of candidates for next year’s polls.

“The reason why we’re fast-tracking this discussion, and the amendments is because we want to insulate this from political innuendos and political interpretation. It just might be used as a campaign slogan. So, it will muddle up again the information,” Adiong said.

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