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History of Philippine Constitutions

Malolos Congress
It is known as the La Constitución política de Malolos and was written in Spanish.
Following the declaration of independence from Spain by the Revolutionary
Government, a congress was held in Malolos, Bulacan in 1899 to draw up a
constitution. It was the first republican constitution in Asia. The document declares
that the people have exclusive sovereignty. It states basic civil rights, the separation
of church and state, and calls for the creation of an Assembly of Representatives
which would act as the legislative body. It also calls for a Presidential form of
government with the president elected for a term of four years by a majority of the
Assembly. The Malolos Constitution established Spanish as the official language of
the Philippines.
The Preamble reads:

"Nosotros los Representantes del Pueblo Filipino, convocados legítimamente para
establecer la justicia, proveer a la defensa común, promover el bien general y
asegurar los beneficios de la libertad, implorando el auxilió del Soberano Legislador ”
del Universo para alcanzar estos fines, hemos votado, decretado y sancionado la

(We, the Representatives of the Filipino people, lawfully convened, in order to

establish justice, provide for common defense, promote the general welfare, and
insure the benefits of liberty, imploring the aid of the Sovereign Legislator of the
Universe for the attainment of these ends, have voted, decreed, and sanctioned the
Commonwealth and Third Republic (1935)
23 March 1935: Seated, left to right: George H. Dern, Secretary of War; President Franklin
D. Roosevelt, signing the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines; Manuel L.
Quezon, President, Philippine Senate

The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines was written in 1934, approved and
adopted by the Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935-1946) and later used by the
Third Republic of the Philippines (1946-1972). It was written with an eye to meeting
the approval of the United States Government as well, so as to ensure that the U.S.
would live up to its promise to grant the Philippines independence and not have a
premise to hold on to its "possession" on the grounds that it was too politically
immature and hence unready for full, real independence.
The Preamble reads:

"The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence, in order to

“ establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and
develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and ”
secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence
under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy, do ordain and
promulgate this constitution."

The original 1935 Constitution provides, inter alia, for a unicameral Legislature and a
single six-year term for the President. It was amended in 1940 to have a bicameral
Congress composed of a Senate and House of Representatives, as well the creation
of an independent Commission on Elections. The Constitution limited the President
to a four-year term with a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.
A Constitutional Convention was held in 1971 to rewrite the 1935 Constitution. The
convention was stained with manifest bribery and corruption. Possibly the most
controversial issue was removing the presidential term limit so that Ferdinand E.
Marcos could seek election for a third term, which many felt was the true reason for
which the convention was called. In any case, the 1935 Constitution was
suspended in 1972 with Marcos' proclamation of martial law, the rampant corruption
of the constitutional process providing him with one of his major premises for doing
Second Republic (1943)
The 1943 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was drafted by a
committee appointed by the Philippine Executive Commission, the body established
by the Japanese to administer the Philippines in lieu of the Commonwealth of the
Philippines which had established a government-in-exile. In mid-1942, Japanese
Premier Hideki Tojo had promised the Filipinos "the honor of independence" which
meant that the commission would be supplanted by a formal republic.
The Philippine Independence Committee tasked with drafting a new constitution was
composed, in large part, of members of the pre-war National Assembly and of
individuals with experience as delegates to the convention that had drafted the 1935
Constitution. Their draft for the republic to be established under the Japanese
Occupation, however, would be limited in duration, provide for indirect, instead of
direct, legislative elections, and an even stronger executive branch.
Upon approval of the draft by the Committee, the new charter was ratified in 1943 by
an assembly of appointed, provincial representatives of the KALIBAPI, the
organization established by the Japanese to supplant all previous political parties.
Upon ratification by the Kalibapi assembly, the Second Republic was formally
proclaimed (1943-1945). José P. Laurel was appointed as President by the National
Assembly and inaugurated into office in October of 1943. Laurel was highly
regarded by the Japanese for having openly criticized the U.S. for the way they ran
the Philippines and because he had a degree from Tokyo International University.
The 1943 Constitution remained in force in Japanese-controlled areas of the
Philippines, but was never recognized as legitimate or binding by the governments
of the United States or of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and guerrilla
organizations loyal to them. In late 1944, President Laurel declared that a state of
war existed with the United States and the British Empire and proclaimed martial
law, essentially ruling by decree. His government in turn went into exile in
December, 1944, first to Taiwan and then Japan. After the announcement of Japan's
surrender, Laurel formally proclaimed the Second Republic as dissolved.
Until the 1960s, the Second Republic, and its officers, were not viewed as legitimate
or as having any standing, with the exception of the Supreme Court whose
decisions, limited to reviews of criminal and commercial cases as part of a policy of
discretion by Chief Justice Jose Yulo continued to be part of the official records (this
was made easier by the Commonwealth never constituting a Supreme Court, and
the formal vacancy in the chief justice position for the Commonwealth with the
execution of Jose Abad Santos by the Japanese). It was only during the Macapagal
administration that a partial, political rehabilitation of the Japanese-era republic took
place, with the recognition of Laurel as a former president and the addition of his
cabinet and other officials to the roster of past government officials. However, the
1943 charter was not taught in schools and the laws of the 1943-44 National
Assembly never recognized as valid or relevant.
The Preamble reads:

"The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence and

“ desiring to lead a free national existence, do hereby proclaim their
independence, and in order to establish a government that shall ”
promote the general welfare, conserve and develop the patrimony of
the Nation, and contribute to the creation of a world order based on
peace, liberty, and moral justice, do ordain this Constitution."

The 1943 Constitution provided strong executive powers. The Legislature consisted
of a unicameral National Assembly and only those considered as anti-US could
stand for election, although in practice most legislators were appointed rather than

Fourth Republic (1973)

The 1973 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, promulgated after Marcos'
declaration of martial law, provides for a parliamentary form of government.
Legislative power was vested in a National Assembly whose members were elected
for six-year terms. The President was elected as the symbolic head of state from the
Members of the National Assembly for a six-year term and could be re-elected to an
unlimited number of terms. Upon election, the President ceased to be a member of
the National Assembly. During his term, the President was not allowed to be a
member of a political party or hold any other office. Executive power was exercised
by the Prime Minister who was also elected from the Members of the National
Assembly. The Prime Minister was the head of government and Commander-in-
Chief of the armed forces. This constitution was subsequently amended three times.
On 22 September 1976, President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1033
proposing amendments to the Constitution, which was later on ratified and included
in the 1973 Constitution. The amendments provide, among other things, for the
replacement of the National Assembly by the Batasang Pambansa. It also states
that the incumbent President of the Philippines shall be the Prime Minister, and shall
continue to exercise legislative powers until Martial Law has been lifted.
Amendments were done again in 1981 which re-established a parliamentary form of
government with a president elected by direct vote of the people. In reality, these
amendments had little effect at the time due to the ongoing Marcos dictatorship;
however, Marcos did, at least in name, dissolve martial law at about this time and
conduct (highly questionable) elections, which he unsurprisingly "won". Presidential
Proclamation No. 3, popularly known as the 1986 Provisional Freedom Constitution,
was the most far reaching set of amendments to the 1973 constitution that it was
almost a constitution in its own right. However, it is really a large set of amendments
which superseded and abolished certain provisions from the constitution. It granted
the President certain powers to remove officials from office, reorganize the
government and hold a new constitutional convention to draft a new constitution.
Following the EDSA People Power Revolution that removed President Ferdinand E.
Marcos from office, the new President, Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No.
3 and the adoption of a provisional constitution that would prepare for the next
constitution which became the 1987 constitution.

The Philippine Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines (In Filipino: Ang Konstitusyon
ng Republika ng Pilipinas), ratified on February 2, 1987, is the fourth fundamental
law to govern the Philippines since it became independent on July 4, 1946. First, the
1935 Constitution, which became fully operational after the Inauguration of the Third
Philippine Republic. Second, the 1973 Constitution, which was promulgated during
Martial Law and became fully operational only after the lifting of Martial Law in 1981.
Third, the 1986 Provisional "Freedom" Constitution, which was promulgated on
March 25 by President Corazon C. Aquino after the successful People Power
Revolution in 1986.

[Importance of the Study

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines provides that "(1) All
educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the

As the basic and fundamental law of the land, the Constitution of the Republic of the
Philippines is the sole instrument that affects the very core of Filipino nationhood, for
“sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from
them.” In this light, it is imperative that every Filipino, regardless of status and
profession, should learn the foundation and operation of his government in order to
guarantee a successful Philippine Republic.
History of Philippine Constitutions
The 1897 Constitution of Biak-na-Bato, or Constituciong Halal sa Biak-na-Bato,
promulgated by the Philippine Revolutionary Government on November 1, 1897, is
the provisionary Constitution of the Philippine Republic during the Revolution against
Spain. It provides that the Supreme Council, vested with the supreme power of
government, shall conduct foreign relations, war, the interior, and the treasury.
The 1899 Political Constitution of the Republic, known as the Malolos
Constitution, was approved by President Emilio Aguinaldo on January 21, 1899 and
served as the Constitution of the First Philippine Republic. It provides for a
parliamentary form of government, but the President, and not a Prime Minister, acts
as the head of government. Legislative power is exercised by the Assembly of
Representatives of the Nation, and judicial power is lodge in a Supreme Court.
The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines, ratified on May 17, 1935, establishes
the Commonwealth of the Philippines, defining its powers, composition and
organization as it function as the Government of the Philippine Islands. It is based
on the principle of separation of powers among the three branches of government.
Executive power is vested in the President and shall serve for a single-six year term.
Legislative power is vested in a unicameral National Assembly, and judicial power is
exercised by the Supreme Court. It also provides that upon proclamation of
Philippine Independence, the Commonwealth of the Philippines shall be known as
the Republic of the Philippines.
The 1939 Amendment -- The amendments liberalized all laws and made few
changes on the economic provisions of the Tydings-Mcduffie Law.
The 1940 Amendments -- The amendments, by virtue of Resolution No. 73, provide
for the establishment of a bicameral Congress, composed of a Senate and a House
of Representatives, and limits the term of office of the President to four years, but
may continue to serve for a maximum of eight years. The amendment also provides
for the creation of a Commission on Elections.
The 1947 Amendment -- known as the Parity Amendment, gave Americans equal
rights with Filipinos in the exploitation of Philippine Natural resources.
The 1943 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, or the Constitution of
the Second Philippine Republic, was ratified by the general assembly of the
KALIBAPI. It is based on the system of separation of powers among the executive,
legislative, and the judiciary. It served as a temporary constitution, for it stipulated
that one year after the end of the World War II, it shall be replaced by a new
The 1973 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, or Ang Saligang Batas
ng Pilipinas, ratified by the Citizens Assemblies on January 17, 1973, provides for a
shift from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary system. The
President serves as a symbolic head of State, executive power is exercised by the
Prime Minister with the assistance of the Cabinet, and legislative power is vested in
a unicameral National Assembly. In 1976, the National Assembly was replaced by
the Batasang Pambansa, by virtue of PD 1033 issued by President Ferdinand
The 1973 Constitution as amended (amended in 1981 and 1984) provides for a
semi-parliamentary form of government, where the President, no longer acts as a
symbolic head, but acts as the head of state and the chief executive. The Office of
the President has been restored to its original status under the 1935 Constitution.
Legislative power is vested in a unicameral Batasang Pambansa. The Prime
Minister, who is subordinated to the President, acts as the Head of the Cabinet.
The 1986 Provisional Constitution, popularly known as the Freedom Constitution,
promulgated by President Corazon C. Aquino on March 25, 1986, was a provisional
constitution after a successful People Power Revolution. Under the Freedom
Constitution, executive and legislative powers are exercised by the President, and
shall continue to exercise legislative powers until a legislature is elected and
convened under a new Constitution. Furthermore, the President is mandated to
convene a Constitutional Commission tasked to draft a new charter.