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

25 Apr



COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, JESUS DELFIN, ALBERTO PEDROSA & CARMEN PEDROSA, in their capacities as founding members of the People’s Initiative for Reforms, Modernization and Action (PIRMA), respondents.


Ponente: DAVIDE, JR.


Private respondent 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 the COMELEC for an order (1) Fixing the time and dates for signature gathering all over the country; (2) Causing the necessary publications of said Order and the attached “Petition for Initiative on the 1987 Constitution, in newspapers of general and local circulation; and (3) Instructing Municipal Election Registrars in all Regions of the Philippines, to assist Petitioners and volunteers, in establishing signing stations at the time and on the dates designated for the purpose. Delfin asserted that R.A. No. 6735 governs the conduct of initiative to amend the Constitution and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 is a valid exercise of delegated powers. Petitioners contend that R.A. No. 6375 failed to be an enabling law because of its deficiency and inadequacy, and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 is void.


Whether or not (1) the absence of subtitle for such initiative is not fatal, (2) R.A. No. 6735 is adequate to cover the system of initiative on amendment to the Constitution, and (3) COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 is valid. .


NO.  Petition (for prohibition) was granted. The conspicuous silence in subtitles simply means that the main thrust of the Act is initiative and referendum on national and local laws. R.A. No. 6735 failed to provide sufficient standard for subordinate legislation. Provisions COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 prescribing rules and regulations on the conduct of initiative or amendments to the Constitution are declared void.


Subtitles are intrinsic aids for construction and interpretation. R.A. No. 6735 failed to provide any subtitle on initiative on the Constitution, unlike in the other modes of initiative, which are specifically provided for in Subtitle II and Subtitle III. This deliberate omission indicates that the matter of people’s initiative to amend the Constitution was left to some future law. 

The COMELEC acquires jurisdiction over a petition for initiative only after its filing. The petition then is the initiatory pleading. Nothing before its filing is cognizable by the COMELEC, sitting en banc. The only participation of the COMELEC or its personnel before the filing of such petition are (1) to prescribe the form of the petition; (2) to issue through its Election Records and Statistics Office a certificate on the total number of registered voters in each legislative district; (3) to assist, through its election registrars, in the establishment of signature stations; and (4) to verify, through its election registrars, the signatures on the basis of the registry list of voters, voters’ affidavits, and voters’ identification cards used in the immediately preceding election.

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. The respondent Commission must have known that the petition does not fall under any of the actions or proceedings under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure or under Resolution No. 2300, for which reason it did not assign to the petition a docket number. Hence, the said petition was merely entered as UND, meaning, undocketed. That petition was nothing more than a mere scrap of paper, which should not have been dignified by the Order of 6 December 1996, the hearing on 12 December 1996, and the order directing Delfin and the oppositors to file their memoranda or oppositions. In so dignifying it, the COMELEC acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion and merely wasted its time, energy, and resources.


PUNO, concurring and dissenting

I join the ground-breaking ponencia of our esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Davide insofar as it orders the COMELEC to dismiss the Delfin petition. I regret, however, I cannot share the view that R.A. No. 6735 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 are legally defective and cannot implement the people’s initiative to amend the Constitution. I likewise submit that the petition with respect to the Pedrosas has no leg to stand on and should be dismissed. (MELO and MENDOZA concur)

VITUG, concurring and dissenting

I vote for granting the instant petition before the Court and for clarifying that the TRO earlier issued by the Court did not prescribe the exercise by the Pedrosas of their right to campaign for constitutional amendments.

[T]he TRO earlier issued by the Court which, consequentially, is made permanent under the ponencia should be held to cover only the Delfin petition and must not be so understood as having intended or contemplated to embrace the signature drive of the Pedrosas. The grant of such a right is clearly implicit in the constitutional mandate on people initiative.

FRANCISCO, concurring and dissenting

There is no question that my esteemed colleague Mr. Justice Davide has prepared a scholarly and well-written ponencia. Nonetheless, I cannot fully subscribe to his view that R. A. No. 6735 is inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution. (MELO and MENDOZA concur)

PANGANIBAN, concurring and dissenting

Our distinguished colleague, Mr. Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., writing for the majority, holds that:

(1) The Comelec acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in entertaining the “initiatory” Delfin Petition.

(2) While the Constitution allows amendments to “be directly proposed by the people through initiative,” there is no implementing law for the purpose. RA 6735 is “incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned.”

(3) Comelec Resolution No. 2330, “insofar as it prescribes rules and regulations on the conduct of initiative on amendments to the Constitution, is void.”

I concur with the first item above. Until and unless an initiatory petition can show the required number of signatures — in this case, 12% of all the registered voters in the Philippines with at least 3% in every legislative district — no public funds may be spent and no government resources may be used in an initiative to amend the Constitution. Verily, the Comelec cannot even entertain any petition absent such signatures. However, I dissent most respectfully from the majority’s two other rulings.


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One response to “Defensor-Santiago vs. COMELEC (G.R. No. 127325. March 19, 1997)

  1. shinkirstine

    March 23, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Reblogged this on meandmyfoolishheart.


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