Proposed Senate Bill 2021-3
People’s Initiative Revitalization & Mobilization Act/PIRMA
In 1989, as a way to institutionalize People Power though empowering grassroots’ legislative initiatives, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6735 was enacted. It was aimed at implementing constitutional provisions related to “the power of the people to propose amendments to the Constitution or to propose and enact legislations.” Despite its noble intentions, the said Act provides for a cumbersome process which defeats its stated purposes. In fact, no single legislative piece or constitutional amendment was passed through this process. In two separate decisions, the Philippine Supreme Court has also declared that R.A. No. 6735 is “‘incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions’ to cover the system of initiative to amend the Constitution” (firstly in G.R. No. 127325 and reiterated in G.R. No. 174153).
Furthermore, R.A. No. 6735’s provisions are no longer attuned to the needs and interests of the 21st century’s information technology-powered citizenry. Hence, there is a need to update and to expand this Act, and ensure that it would stimulate and revitalize, rather than hamper, people’s legislative initiatives. This proposed Senate bill is the most creative and innovative implementation of people’s rights as initiators of legislations so far (for the record and to their credit, former Senators Loi Ejercito Estrada, Edgardo Angara, and Miriam Defensor Santiago have filed Senate bills which aim to strengthen people’s initiatives too, but their bills were still predicated on 20th century manual processes, while the current Senate bill intends to modernize the processes for people’s initiatives, especially that there is no known and/or dynamic champion of people’s initiative in the current Senate). This proposed Senate bill is partly inspired by the United Kingdom’s online parliamentary petitions system, in which the UK government is required to respond for every petition that garners at least 10,000 signatures, and the UK Parliament is required to consider for debate every petition that garners at least 100,000 signatures. It’s about time we adopt a similar system for the Philippines.
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines assembled.
SECTION 1. Short Title. This act shall be known and cited by its short title “People’s Initiative Revitalization Act (PIRMA).”
SECTION 2. Declaration of State Policy. The power of the people to directly propose, enact, approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws, ordinances, or resolutions passed by any legislative body upon compliance with the requirements of this Act is hereby affirmed, recognized and guaranteed.
SECTION 3. Coverage. This Act shall cover the Constitution, laws, ordinances, or resolutions passed by any legislative body.
SECTION 4. National Online People’s Petitions Database. This Act hereby directs the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to establish a National Online People’s Petitions Database, akin to the UK’s Parliament Petition Database, within a year from this Act’s effectivity. The said database shall be a secure and user-friendly online platform for any Filipino citizen to: propose a specific amendment in the Constitution; propose a legislative bill for congressional and Senate action; compel Congress and Senate to immediately pass a pending House and/or Senate bill; compel Congress and Senate to immediately repeal a law; or to compel the president to repeal an executive order. For automatic verification purposes – especially for petitions related to proposed constitutional amendments – such system should require every citizen who want to initiate and/or sign a petition to utilize his/her National ID in the sign up process for the national petitions database. Within two years from this Act’s effectivity, the DICT should ensure that the said database is also capable of handling petitions related to local ordinances and resolutions.
SECTION 5. Required Responses for Congress, Senate, the President, and Local Government Units (LGUs). Every online petition that garners at least 15,000 signatures should instantly require Congress, Senate, or the President to respond formally about their stand and/or action/s on the petition’s proposal. Every online petition proposing a legislative bill that garners at least 150,000 signatures should be instantly converted into a House and Senate bill by the pertinent House and Senate Committee within 1 month from the petition milestone, and shall be treated as such all throughout the legislative cycle. Every online petition compelling Congress and Senate to immediately pass a pending House and/or Senate bill that garners a number of signatures equivalent to 2/3 of the total number of registered voters, will automatically require Congress and Senate to pass the said bill and shepherd it into enactment before the legislative cycle ends. The same signature milestone is required to instantly repeal a law. Every online petition compelling the president to repeal an executive order that garners a number of signatures equivalent to 51% of the total number of registered voters, will automatically require the president to instantly repeal his/her executive order. Applicable petition thresholds for local ordinances and resolutions will be set by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through a memorandum to be issued within 2 years of this Act’s effectivity.
SECTION 6. Provision for Proposed Constitutional Amendments. Amendments to the Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through this Act. The online petition milestone required for every such proposal is at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein. Upon garnering the said petition milestone, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) would certify the petition as valid and sufficient, and thereby hold a plebiscite on the matter as per the Constitution’s prescriptions.
SECTION 7. Prohibited Measures. The following cannot be the subject of any people’s initiative: petition embracing more than one (1) subject shall be submitted to the electorate; petition diluting and/or curtailing human rights and/or civil liberties; petition expanding the powers of the Senate, Congress, the president, state security forces, or the Supreme Court; petition to extend the term of office of any elected government official; petition to empower big corporations, dynasties, banks, financial institutions and similar powerful entities; petition to discriminate against particular groups and/or sectors; other patently unconstitutional measures – which may be only allowed for petitions for constitutional amendments, for which all the preceding prohibitions are still applicable.
SECTION 8. Encouraged Measures. The following measures are highly encouraged to be the subject of any people’s initiative: petition to expand human rights and/or civil liberties; petition to dilute the powers and/or influence of big corporations, dynasties, banks, financial institutions and similar powerful entities; petition for progressive tax measures; petition against regressive tax measures; petition to compel Congress and Senate, or the president to enact pertinent enabling laws mentioned in the Constitution; other petitions that are pro-people in nature.
SECTION 9. Funding. This Act shall be funded through general appropriations.
SECTION 10. Implementing Rules and Regulations. The DICT, in coordination with pertinent agencies, representatives of people’s organizations and sectoral organizations, and experts on people’s initiatives, will draft and release the implementing rules and regulations of this Act, not later than 3 months from its effectivity.
SECTION 11. Separability Clause. In case any provision in this Act shall be declared invalid, illegal or unenforceable, the validity, legality and enforceability of the remaining provisions shall not in any way be affected or impaired.
SECTION 12. Repealing Clause. All laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, rules and regulations, and other issuances, or parts thereof which are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.
SECTION 13. Effectivity Clause. This Act shall take effect upon its publication in at least two (2) national newspapers of general circulation.