Is the draft law being pushed through a People’s Initiative unconstitutional?

Posted at 08/25/2014 8:54 PM

Is the Scrap Pork Network behind the People’s Initiative promising something that might get shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in the end? Something even Congress can easily overturn?

Why didn’t any official in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines see the potential constitutional defects and suggest amendments to the draft law entitled “An Act abolishing the presidential and congressional pork barrel system, strengthening the system of checks and balances over public funds, prohibiting certain acts, and providing penalties therefore?”

Or did the IBP president simply back it without reading the draft law?

Don’t get me wrong. I am personally for banning the congressional pork barrel and for putting an end to political patronage and political dynasties.

But today’s move to ban pork through a People’s Initiative has me really puzzled. And wishing that the public was first consulted on such an important matter and shown the draft law that the Scrap Pork Network now wants the public to legislate by signing the People’s Initiative.

I really, really wish those behind the petition had first posted the draft law on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter so it could have been refined, BEFORE launching the sign-up campaign.

Banning pork is a laudable move.

But sadly, yesterday and today’s entire exercises and the People’s Initiative itself may not achieve the intended effect of banning pork because the draft law is seriously defective.

Here are FOUR reasons why.

NUMBER ONE. The draft law to ban pork barrel by means of a People’s Initiative promises something that it cannot deliver without amending the Constitution. And the draft law does not propose any such constitutional amendment.

The draft law states in Section 10:

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 This Act may only be repealed, modified or amended by a law that has been approved by the people under the system of initiative and referendum enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

In short, once approved by a referendum, the draft law asserts that the same can only be changed or scrapped through another People’s Initiative and referendum.

This is apparently the come-on that is attracting people to sign up for the People’s Initiative.

Before today’s sign-up exercise at Luneta in Manila, Phoebe Zoe Maria posted on Facebook that a law passed through a People’s Initiative is “far more superior” than the provisions in the 1987 Constitution that were passed by the 1987 Constitutional Commission [underlining is mine]:

“A law passed through People’s Initiative (PI) is far more superior than what was previously passed by the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) so that it can supersede the provisions of the constitution when approved by a referendum. The ‘Abolish the Pork Barrel System Bill’ through this PI is far more superior than the rest of the provisions of the 1987 constitution. A law passed through PI cannot be repealed by other forms except through another law passed through PI also."

That is simply not correct.

But don’t take my word for it.

Read Father Ranhilio Aquino, Dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law:

For the rest of the blog entry, click here.