By Ferdinand Patinio

Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia (File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday reported that signatures from 300 areas have been submitted to their offices in cities and municipalities nationwide regarding the proposal for constitutional reform through the People’s Initiative (PI).

In an interview, Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said they aim to determine the total number of signatures submitted to their offices by Friday.

“Cities and municipalities po yan. Hindi pa lang na-determine ilang distrito yan. Mula Cordillera hanggang Bangsamoro, nakakatanggap na ang local Comelec ng signature pages (Those are from cities and municipalities. We have yet to determine how many districts are involved. From the Cordillera to the Bangsamoro region, Comelec offices have been receiving signature pages),” he said.

Garcia also noted that under the poll body’s Resolution 10650, proponents would have to secure first certification of the total number of voters in each legislative district before they could file a petition for PI.

“May checklist yan, nakalagay ano mga hinahanap namin para sufficient in form and substance (ang petition). Clerk of (Commission) ang magde-determine nyan. After nyan, magbibigay ang Clerk of Commission ng recommendation sa Comelec en banc kung sufficient ba or hindi (We have a checklist containing the requirements to determine whether these petitions are sufficient in form and substance. The Clerk of Commission will determine that and recommend to the Comelec en banc whether or not these are sufficient in form and substance),” he added.

Garcia also maintained that they have yet to receive a formal petition on the measure.

“At this point, wala pa sa Comelec, wala pang filing fee, wala pang jurisdiction. Magkakaroon lang pag may na-file nang petition, bayad ng filing fee, kapag sinabi namin (It has not yet been submitted to the Comelec. There is no filing fee yet and the poll body has still no jurisdiction over it. We will only have jurisdiction over it once a filing fee has been paid and if we say these are) sufficient in form and substance,” he said.

The PI is one of three methods for constitutional reform, aside from constitutional convention and constituent assembly.

Under the PI method, petitions for constitutional reform should be backed by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, which must also include 3 percent of the total voting population of a legislative district.

Once the petition is filed before the Comelec, it would then verify the legitimacy of the signatures.

Meanwhile, Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said they would need PHP13 billion for the possible holding of the plebiscite for constitutional reform through PI.

In a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing, Laudiangco said this was based on their expenses from the recent polls in the country, the latest of which was the October 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

“Sa PHP13 billion na iyan ay halos 70 percent po niyan ay tumutumbas sa honoraria ng ating mga electoral boards, sa ating members of the boards of canvassers at mga support staff. So, depende po kung ito po man po ay maisasakatuparan – kung io-automate ba ito o manu-mano, basta po lagi ang baseline budget po natin ay laging nasa PHP13 billion (Of the PHP13 billion, 70 percent is for the honoraria of the electoral boards, members of boards of canvassers, and support staff. Once this pushes through, it would depend on whether it would be done manually or it would be automated. Our baseline budget is always PHP13 billion),” he said. (PNA)