Comelec acts on withdrawal of PI signatures

Comelec acts on withdrawal of PI signatures

The Commission on Elections is set to issue a directive that would allow those who signed the People’s Initiative to withdraw their signatures.

This as Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa raised the concerns of those who were allegedly fooled into signing the PI forms seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution in exchange for social welfare benefits.

“During our [first] hearing in Davao City, those who signed were very angry. They wanted to withdraw their signatures,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino during the resumption of the public inquiry into the signature campaign for the People’s Initiative on Tuesday.

“The barangay officials in Davao City told me, ‘Sir we can’t let go of that because our signatures, for us, they’re sacred. Now that we realize that we were fooled, we want to withdraw our signatures,’” Dela Rosa said.

He said the Comelec regional director in the Davao region could not say how to withdraw the signatures “in the absence of policies.”

Dela Rosa recalled Comelec Chairperson George Garcia saying that the poll body had no rules or policies for the withdrawal of signatures.

Dela Rosa then asked Garcia if the Comelec field officers could help the people take back their signatures from the PI forms.

“If they help the people withdraw their signatures, will these Comelec officers be held criminally or administratively liable?” he asked.

“Your honor, in the absence of rules in the meantime there’s no criminal liability — maybe there will be administratively because it’s our accountability for receiving it,” Garcia responded, saying the Comelec respects Republic Act 6713, an Act Establishing a Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.

Garcia said the Comelec could impose stopgap measures to resolve the issue.

“The Comelec will be issuing a directive to our local Comelec offices on what to do with these documents if the people who signed them would like to withdraw their signatures. In the meantime, this will serve as a stopgap measure pending our review,” he said.

Garcia said the issuance of the directive to regional election officers would allow people to freely withdraw their signatures.

Dela Rosa noted the Comelec’s response but said that it was incumbent on the poll body to hasten the issuance of a directive to its local offices.

“Yes, your honor. We will do that,” Garcia replied.

The Comelec said the PI signature forms don’t have any value at this point.

“These are mere scraps of paper because its intention is still unspecified, making it void,” Garcia said.

Dela Rosa said that while the Comelec doesn’t recognize the PI signature forms, those pushing for it are very invested in the initiative.

“They can revive that PI campaign, they can always make another move so the people’s wish to withdraw their signatures must be granted, and we should help ordinary people maintain their dignity,” he said.

Meanwhile, senators on Tuesday slammed the People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action, or PIRMA, for its refusal to submit documents on its “EDSA-pwera” television ad to the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation as the inquiry on the signature campaign for Charter change resumed.

Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate panel leading the inquiry, said PIRMA failed to submit the list of ad donors and the proof of payment of the donor’s tax.

Marcos said the documents were particularly requested by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III during the first hearing on the PI signature campaign two weeks ago.

“From PIRMA, we still have not received the actual cost of printing of the signature forms. I think Rep. Rodante Marcoleta made some estimates and they were significant sums and yet we do not have the cost of printing,” she said.

Senator Nancy Binay urged PIRMA to divulge the group’s organizational structure.

This after it was revealed during the resumption of the public inquiry into the signature campaign for a People’s Initiative that PIRMA has not been active for the past two decades.

The Securities and Exchange Commission revoked PIRMA’s registration on 10 February 2004 after it failed to submit reportorial requirements.

During the hearing, Binay asked PIRMA lead convenor Noel Oñate to reveal who the members were, noting that an organizational structure would give weight to the People’s Initiative campaign, especially since this was for a constitutional process.

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