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5. Defensor-Santiago v. COMELEC [G.R. No. 127325.

March 19, 1997]


Topic: Initiative (Sec. 2, Art. XVII)

FACTS: On 6 December 1996, private respondent Atty. Jesus S. Delfin filed with
public respondent Commission on Elections (hereafter, COMELEC) a Petition to Amend
the Constitution, to Lift Term Limits of Elective Officials, by Peoples Initiative (hereafter,
Delfin Petition). COMELEC directed the publication of said petition and set the hearing
of the case. At the said hearing, among the oppositors were Sen. Roco, IBP, LABAN
and Demokrasya-Ipagtanggol ang Konstitusyon (DIK). Herein petitioners filed a special
civil action for prohibition contending that the peoples initiative is limited to amendments
to the Constitution, not to revision thereof. Extending or lifting of term limits constitutes a
revision and is, therefore, outside the power of the peoples initiative.

ISSUES: (1) Whether or not Sec. 2, Art. XVII of the 1987 Constitution is a self-
executing provision.

(2) Whether or not COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 regarding the conduct
of initiative on amendments to the Constitution is valid, considering the absence
in the law of specific provisions on the conduct of such initiative.

(3) Whether the lifting of term limits of elective officials would


constitute a revision or an amendment of the Constitution.

HELD: (1) Sec. 2, Art XVII of the Constitution is not self executory, thus,
without implementing legislation the same cannot operate. Although the Constitution
has recognized or granted the right, the people cannot exercise it if Congress does not
provide for its implementation.

(2) The portion of COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 which prescribes rules
and regulations on the conduct of initiative on amendments to the Constitution, is void. It
has been an established rule that what has been delegated, cannot be delegated
(potestas delegata non delegari potest). The delegation of the power to the COMELEC
being invalid, the latter cannot validly promulgate rules and regulations to implement the
exercise of the right to peoples initiative.

(3) The lifting of the term limits was held to be that of a revision, as it
would affect other provisions of the Constitution such as the synchronization of
elections, the constitutional guarantee of equal access to opportunities for public
service, and prohibiting political dynasties. A revision cannot be done by
initiative. However, considering the Courts decision in the above Issue, the issue
of whether or not the petition is a revision or amendment has become academic.