Congress can't repeal a People's Initiative law, Bayan Muna rep insists

Posted at 08/25/2014 11:52 PM

Things got even more interesting.

Bayan Muna Congressman Neri Colmentares is standing his ground that Section 10 of the draft People's Initiative law is constitutional.

Former Congressman Teddy Casino posted the following on his blog:

"In the interest of clarifying concerns regarding the constitutionality of the proposed PI bill abolishing the pork barrel system, I’m posting Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares’ memo on the controversial Section 10 of the said bill.

THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF THE PEOPLE TO PASS A LAW: Beyond Congressional Power of Repeal and Presidential Power of Veto

By Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares

August 25, 2014


Section 10 of the proposed bill of the peoples initiative provides that:

SEC. 10. Amendment or repeal of this Act. This Act may only be repealed, modified or amended by a law that has been approved by the people under the system of initiative and referendum enshrined in the 1987 Constitution

Certain concerns were raised on whether Section 10 could withstand a constitutional challenge thereby endangering the peoples initiative. The concern is once the Comelec grants the petition and schedules a referendum, the constitutionality of the bill is ripe for adjudication by the Supreme Court who in turn, may strike down Section 10 and declare that the law abolishing the pork barrel system may be repealed by Congress in its ordinary exercise of legislative powers.

Section 10 is constitutional as explained below, and even if, in the unlikely event that it is declared unconstitutional, the law passed through people’s initiative remains valid, since the procedural provision on how the law can be repealed has no relation at all with the substantive provisions of the law prohibiting pork barrel.

The traditional concept in the Philippine Constitution, and in probably all Constitutions of representative governments throughout the world, is that the power to legislate belongs to the legislature, whether a Congress or a Parliament. The legal notion of a direct democracy type of legislation through a peoples initiative has not achieved widespread practice in many countries today. While there are initiative laws that allow for legislation at a state, provincial or cantonal level, such as the United States or Switzerland, there is probably no country other than the Philippines that allows for a peoples initiative to pass a national legislation. Many lawyers, therefore, find it difficult to automatically apply the traditional legal principles and jurisprudence they are familiar with on such a novel legal notion that possibly sprung from the direct democracy that was practiced in the early days of the Greek states but was abandoned a long time ago.

The power of the people to pass a national law is a new provision in the Philippine Constitution. None of the previous Constitutions, including the Malolos Constitution, provided for the power of initiative. There is no existing jurisprudence applicable on the conduct of a people’s initiative to pass a national legislation especially on whether Congress can repeal a law passed through a peoples initiative. The existing jurisprudence such as the Lambino and Santiago cases did not touch on the issue of congressional repeal of a law passed by the people’s initiative. While no one can certainly predict how this issue would be resolved by the Supreme Court, the proponents of the initiative are quite confident that the Court will rule in favor of the letter, purpose and intent of the constitutional provision, and therefore rule in favor of the peoples initiative.