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Meaning of Constitution
In broad sense, the term constitution refers to that body of rules and
principles in accordance with which the powers of sovereignty are regularly
exercised. As thus defined, it covers both written and unwritten constitution.

Nature and Purpose or Function of Constitution

1. Serves as the supreme or fundamental law. A constitution is the
charter creating the government. It has the status of a supreme or
fundamental law as it speaks for the entire people from whom it
derives its claim to obedience.
a. Establishes basic framework and underlying principles of

government. The constitution is also referred to as the organic

or basic law being or relating to the law by virtue of which the
government exists as such.

Meaning of Constitutional Law

Constitutional law may be defined as that branch of public law which
treats of constitutions, their nature, formation, amendment, and

Kinds of Constitution
Constitution may classify as follows:
1. As to their origin and history
a. Conventional or enacted. One which is enacted by a constituent
assembly or granted by a monarch to his subjects like the
Constitution of Japan in 1889; and
b. Cumulative or evolved. Like the English Constitution, one which is a
product of growth or a long period of development originating in
customs, traditions, judicial decisions, etc., rather than from a
deliberate and formal enactment.

2. As to their form
a. Written. One which has been given definite written form at a
particular time, usually by a specially constituted authority called a
constitutional convention; and
b. Unwritten. One which is entirely the product of political revolution,
consisting largely of a mass of customs, usages and judicial
decisions together with a smaller body of statutory enactments of a
fundamental character, usually bearing different dates.
3. As to manner of amending them
a. Rigid or inelastic. One regarded as a document of special sanctity
which cannot be amended or altered except by some special
machinery more cumbrous than the ordinary legislative process;
b. Flexible or elastic. One which possesses no higher legal authority
than ordinary laws and which may be altered in the same way as
other laws.
The Philippine Constitution may be classified as conventional or
enacted, written, rigid or inelastic. It was drafted by an appointive body
called Constitutional Commission.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Written Constitution

1. It has the advantage of clearness and definiteness over an unwritten

one. This is because it is prepared with great care and deliberation.

Such a constitution cannot be easily bent or twisted by the legislature
or by the courts, to meet the temporary fancies of the moment. Hence,
the protection it affords and the rights it guarantees are apt to be more
secure. Moreover, it is more stable and free from all dangers of
temporary popular passion.
2. Its disadvantage lies in the difficulty of its amendment. This prevents
the immediate introduction of needed changes and may thereby retard
the healthy growth and progress of the state.

Requisites of a Good Written Constitution

1. As to form, a good written constitution should be:
a. Brief. Because if the constitution is too detailed, it would lose the
advantage of a fundamental law which in a few provisions outlines
the structure of the government of the whole state and the rights of
the citizens. It would probably never be understood by the public.
Furthermore, it would then be necessary to amend it every once in a
while to cover many future contingencies;
b. Broad. Because a statement of the powers and functions of
government , and of the relations between the governing body and
the governed, requires that it be as comprehensive as possible; and
c. Definite. Because otherwise the application of its provisions to
concrete situations may prove unduly difficult if not impossible. Any
vagueness which may lead to opposing interpretations of essential
features may cause incalculable harm. Civil war and the disruption
of the state may conceivably follow from the ambiguous expressions
in a constitution.
2. As to contents, it should contain at least three sets of provisions:
a. That dealing with the framework of government and its powers and
defining the electorate. This group of provisions has been called the
constitution of government;
b. That setting forth the fundamental rights of the people and
imposing certain limitations on the powers of government as a
means of securing the enjoyment of these rights. This group has
been referred to as the constitution of liberty; and
c. That pointing out the mode or procedure for amending or revising
the constitution. This group has been called the constitution of
Constitution Distinguished from Statute
1. A constitution is a legislation direct from the people, while a statute is
a legislation from the peoples representatives;

2. A constitution merely states the general framework of the law and the
government, while a statute provides the details of the subject of
which it treats;
3. A constitution is intended not merely to meet existing conditions but to
govern the future, while a statute is intended primarily to meet existing
conditions only; and
4. A constitution is the supreme or fundamental law of the State to which
the statutes and all other laws must conform.

Authority to Interpret the Constitution

1. Even a private individual may interpret or ascertain the meaning of
particular provisions of Constitution in order to govern his own actions
and guide him in his dealings with other persons.
2. It is evident, however, that only those charged with official duties,
whether executive, legislative, or judicial, can give authoritative
interpretation of the Constitution.
a. This function belongs primarily to the courts whose final decisions
are binding on all departments or organs of the government,
including the legislature.
b. There are, however, constitutional questions (i.e., political
questions) which under the Constitution are addressed to the
discretion of the other departments and, therefore, before the
power of the judiciary to decide. Thus, the determination of the
President as to which foreign government is to be recognized by the
Philippines cannot be passed upon by the courts.

Purpose in Interpreting the Constitution

The fundamental purpose in constructing constitutional provisions is to
ascertain and give effect to the intent of the framers and of the people who
adopted or approved it or its amendments.
It is, therefore, the duty of the courts to constantly keep in mind the
objectives sought to be accomplished by its adoption and the evils, if any,
sought to be prevented or remedied. It may be assumed that the people, in
ratifying the constitution, were guided mainly by the explanations given by
the framers on the meaning of its provisions.


The 1935 Constitution
1. Framing and Ratification. Briefly stated, the state which led to the
drafting and adoption of the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines are as
a. Approval on March 24, 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of
the Tydings-McDuffie Law, otherwise known as the Philippine
Independence Act, enacted by the United States Congress,
authorizing the Philippine Legislature to call a constitutional
convention to draft a constitution for the Philippines;
b. Approval on May 5, 1934 by the Philippine Legislature of a bill
calling a constitutional convention as provided for in the
Independence Law;
c. Approval on February 8, 1935 by the convention by a vote of 177 to
1 of the Constitution (the signing began on the following day and
was completed on February 19, 1935);
d. Approval on March 23, 1935 by Pres. Roosevelt of the Constitution
as submitted to him, together with a certification that the said
Constitution conformed with the provisions of the Independence
Law; and
e. Ratification on May 14, 1935 of the Constitution by the Filipino
electorate by a vote of 1,213,046, with 44,963 against.
2. Limitations and Conditions. While the Tydings-Mcduffie Law empowered
the Filipinos to frame their own Constitution, it contained, however,
provisions limiting such authority.
The 1935 Constitution ceased to operate during the Japanese
occupation from 1942-1944. It automatically became effective upon
the re-establishment of the Commonwealth government on February

27, 1945 and the inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines On July
4, 1946.

3. Sources. The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines did not contain

original ideas of government. While the dominating influence was the
Constitution of the United States, other sources were also consulted by
the framers, particularly the 1898 Malolos Constitution and the three
organic laws that were enforced in the Philippines before the passage
of the Tydings-McDuffie Law, namely: the Instruction of Pres. William
McKinley to the Second Philippine Commission on April 7, 1900; the
Philippine Bill of July 1, 1902; and the Jones Law of August26, 1916
which, of the three mentioned, was the nearest approach to a written
4. Scope. The Constitution as approved by the 1935 Constitutional
Convention was intended both for the Commonwealth and the
Republic. Thus, Article XVII (which later became Article XVIII after the
Constitution was amended) declares: The government established by
this Constitution shall be known as the Commonwealth of the
Philippines. Upon the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty
of the United States and the proclamation of the Philippine
Independence, the Commonwealth of the Philippines shall henceforth
be known as the Republic of the Philippines.
5. Amendments. The 1935 Constitution had been amended three times.
Among the amendments are:
a. That establishing a bicameral legislature;
b. That allowing the reeligibility of the President and the VicePresident for a second four-year term of office;
c. That creating a separate Commission on Elections; and
d. The so-called Parity Amendment which gave to American citizens
equal right with the Filipinos in the exploitation of our natural
resources and the operation of public utilities.
The 1973 Constitution

1. Framing. The experience of more than three decades as a sovereign

nation had revealed flaws and inadequacies in the 1935 Constitution.
a. Taking into account the felt necessities of the times particularly
the new and grave problems arising from an ever increasing
population, urgently pressing for solution, Congress in joint session
on March 16,1967, passed resolution of both Houses No. 2 (as
amended by Resolution No. 4, passed on June 17, 1971), authorizing
the holding of a constitutional convention in 1971.
b. On August 24, 1970, Republic Act No. 6132 was approved setting
November 10, 1970, as Election Day for 320 delegates to the
Constitutional Convention. The convention started its work of
rewriting the Constitution on June 1, 1971. The 1935 Constitution,
with reference to the Malolos Constitution, was made the basis for
the drafting of amendments to the new Constitution. The proposed
Constitution was signed on November 30, 1972.
2. Approval by Citizens Assemblies. Earlier on September 21, 1972, the
President of the Philippines issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the
entire country under Martial Law.
a. To broaden the base of Citizens participation in the democratic
process, and to afford ample opportunities for the citizenry to
express their views on important matters of local or national
concern, Presidential Decree No. 86 was issued on December 31,
1972 creating a Citizens Assembly in each barrio in municipalities
and in each district in chartered cities throughout the country.
Subsequently, Presidential Decree No. 86-A was issued on January 5,
1973 defining the role of barangays.
b. Under the same decree, the barangays were to conduct a
referendum on national issues between January 10 and 15, 1973.
Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 86-A, the following questions
were submitted before the Citizens Assemblies or Barangays:
1. Do you approve of the New Constitution? and
2. Do you still want a plebiscite to be called to ratify the new
3. Ratification by Presidential proclamation. According to Proclamation No.
1102 issued on January 17, 1973, 14,976,561 members of all the Barangays
(Citizens Assemblies) voted for the adoption of the proposed Constitution, as
against 743,869 who voted for its rejection.

4. Amendments. The 1973 Constitution had been amended on four

occasions. Among the important amendments are:
a. that making the then incumbent President, the regular President
and regular Prime Minister;
b. that granting concurrent law-making powers to the President which
the latter exercised even after the lifting of martial law in 1981;
c. that establishing a modified parliamentary form of government;
d. that permitting natural-born citizens who have lost their citizenship
to be transferees of private land, for use by them as residence;
e. that allowing the grant of lands of the public domain to qualified
citizens; and
f. that providing for urban land reform and social housing program.
The 1987 Constitution
1. Framing and Ratification. The 1987 Constitution was drafted by a
Constitutional Commission created under Article V of Proclamation No. 3
issued on March 25, 1986 which promulgated the Provisional Constitution
or Freedom Constitution following the installation of a revolutionary
government through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people.
a. Pursuant to Proclamation No. 3, the President promulgated on April
23, 1986 Proclamation No. 9, the Law Governing the Constitutional
Commission of 1986, to organize the Constitutional Commission,
to provide for the details of its operation and establish the
procedure for the ratification or rejection of the proposed new
b. The Constitutional Commission, which marked the fourth exercise in
the writing of the basic charter in Philippine history since the
Malolos Constitution at the turn of the century, convened on June 2,
1986 at the Batasang Pambansa Building in Diliman, Quezon City.
With the Malolos Constitution of 1898, the 1935 Constitution, and
the 1973 Constitution as working drafts, the Commission in
addition to committee discussions, public hearings and plenary
sessions, conducted public consultations in different parts of the

c. The proposed new Constitution was approved by the Constitutional

Commission on the night of Sunday, October 12, 1986, culminating
133 days of work, by a vote of 44-2. A commissioner signed
subsequently by affixing his thumb mark at his sickbed on October
14, 1986 so that he actually voted in favor of the draft. Another
Commissioner had resigned earlier. The two Commissioners who
dissented also signed to express their dissent and to symbolize
their four months of participation in drawing up the new
d. The Constitutional Commission held its final session in the morning
of October 15, 1986 to sign the 109-page draft consisting of a
preamble, 18 Articles, 321 Sections and about 2,000 words after
which, on the same day, it presented to the President the original
copies in English and Filipino. It was ratified by the people in the
plebiscite held on February 2, 1987. It superseded the Provisional
Constitution which had abrogated the 1973 Charter.
2. Merits and Demerits of an appointive framing body. Admittedly, there
were some merits or advantages in delegating the drawing up of the
new charter to appointed Constitutional Commission rather than to an
elected Constitutional Convention.
a. For one, the Constitutional Commission was not expensive and
time-consuming, as was our experience with the 1971
Constitutional Convention and it was thus practical because the
country could not then afford the cost of electing delegates
because of lack of funds, and time was of the essence in view of
the instability inherent in a revolutionary government and the
need to accelerate the restoration to full constitutional
b. However, the strongest and most fundamental argument
propounded against this method is that an appointive body is
susceptible to the charge of lack of independence and the
suspicion of pressure and even manipulation by the appointing
power. The writing of a Constitution as the highest expression of
the peoples ideals and aspirations to serve the country for
generations to come is a political exercise of transcendental
importance in a republican democracy and therefore, only those
directly elected and empowered by the people must be entrusted
with the task to discharge this grave and solemn responsibility.

3. Need to cure defect in the Constitution. To have a truly democratic and

constitutional government, it is absolutely necessary that the
Constitution be initially drafted by duly elected members of a
representative constituent assembly or constitutional convention and
later on approved by the people in a plebiscite. Some see the need to
straighten out the present Constitution which was drafted by nonelective commissioners and ratified under the authority of a
revolutionary government. The theory is posited that having the
Constitution amended by elected delegates and having constitutional
amendments ratified under the democratic government, we will have
now cured any defect in its formulation and ratification.
Basic Principles Underlying the New Constitution
The 1987 Constitution is founded upon certain fundamental principles
of government which have become part and parcel of our cherished
democratic heritage as a people. A knowledge of these principles is,
therefore, essential to a proper understanding of our organic law.

Among these principles as contained in the new Constitution are the

1. Recognition of the aid of Almighty God (see Preamble);
2. Sovereignty of the people (see Art. II, Sec. 1);
3. Renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy (see Ibid., Sec.
4. Supremacy of civilian authority over the military (see Ibid., Sec. 3);
5. Separation of church and state (see Ibid., Sec. 6);
6. Recognition of the importance of the family as a basic social institution
and of the vital role of the youth in nation-building (see Ibid., Secs.
12,13; Art. XV);
7. Guarantee of human rights (see Art. III, Secs. 1-22);
8. Government through suffrage (see Art. V, Sec. 1);
9. Separation of powers (see Art. VI, Sec. 1);
Guarantee of local autonomy (see Art. X, Sec. 2);
Independence of the judiciary (see Art. VIII, Sec. 1);
High sense of public service morality and accountability of public
officers (see Art. XI, Sec. 1);
Nationalization of natural resources and certain private
enterprises affected with public interest (see Art. XII, Secs. 2, 3, 17,
Non-suability of the State (see Art. XVI, Sec. 3);
Rule of the majority; and


Government of laws and not of men.

Rule of the Majority

1. Concept. The observance of the rule of the majority is an unwritten law
of popular (i.e., democratic) government. The wishes of the majority
prevail over those of the minority. It does not mean that the minority is
given certain fundamental rights, like the right to express their
opinions, or to protest the acts of the majority although it is bound to
abide by the decision of the latter.
2. Instances. In many instances, the rule of the majority is observed in
our government. Thus, under the new Constitution:
a. A majority vote of all the respective members of the Congress is
necessary to elect the Senate President and the Speaker of the
House of Representatives, and a majority of all the members of
Congress to concur to a grant of amnesty and to pass a law
granting tax exemptions. In case of a tie in the election for
President (or Vice-President), the President shall be chosen by
the majority vote of all the members of both Houses of Congress.
b. A two-thirds majority of all its respective members is required to
suspend or expel a member of either House; of all the members
of Congress to declare the existence of a state of war, to
reconsider a bill voted by the President, and to call a
constitutional convention; and of all the members of the Senate
to concur to a treaty or international agreement and to render a
judgment of conviction in impeachment cases.
c. Any amendment to, or revision of, the Constitution may be
proposed by Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its
members, and it shall be valid when ratified by majority of the
votes cast in a plebiscite.
d. Decisions of the Supreme Court en banc have to be concurred in
by a majority of the members who actually took part in the
deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon, to
pronounce a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law

In the court of Appeals, the vote of at least the majority is necessary in

many cases. Even in the passage of local ordinances, the rule of the majority
is observed.
3. A practicable rule of law. The device of the majority is a practicable
rule of law based on reason and experience. Democracy assumes that
in a society of rational beings, the judgment and experience of the
many will, in most instances, be superior to the judgment and
experience of the few; and hence, that the verdict of the majority will
more likely be correct than that of the minority. It is, of course, to be
understood that the majority acts within the pale of the law.
Government of Law and Not of Men
1. Concept. By this principle, which is also known and has the same
import as the rule of law, is meant that no man in this country not
even the government is above or beyond the law. Every man,
however high and mighty his station may be, possesses no greater
rights than every other man in the eyes of the law.
2. Exercise of government powers. A government of laws, as contrasted
with a government of men, is a limited government. It has only the
powers given it by the Constitution and laws, and it may not go beyond
the grants and limitations set forth therein. Its authority continues only
with the consent of the people in whom sovereignty resides. The
principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary government.

3. Observance of the law. The same is true of private individuals in the

community. They are also bound to respect the sovereignty of the law.
A person may not agree with the wisdom and expediency of the law
but it is his duty to follow the law so long as it remains in the statute
books. He cannot take the law into his own hands by resorting to
violence or physical force to enforce his rights or achieve his ends
without being civilly and criminally held liable for his action.
The principle thus protects most especially the liberties of the
weak and underprivileged.
4. Significance of the principle. It is basic that laws must be obeyed by all
and applied to everyone rich or poor, lowly or powerful without fear
or favor. The observance of the supremacy of the rule of law by

officials, individuals, and the people as a whole is what will sustain our
democracy and assure the existence of a truly free, orderly, and
equitable society.
Every citizen has thus a stake in the rule of law as contrasted to the rule
of men. Without it, there is only anarchy, or mere semblance of order under
a dictatorship.