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A constitution is “that body of rules and maxims in accordance with which the powers of sovereignty are habitually exercised.” Broadly speaking, every state has some kind of a constitution—a leading principle that prevails in the “administration of its government until it has become an understood part of its system, to which obedience is expected and habitually yielded.” (Cooley, 1868) In a restricted sense, the Constitution of the Philippines is “a written instrument by which the fundamental powers of the government are established, limited and defined, and by which those powers are distributed among the several departments for their safe and useful exercise and for the benefit of the body politic.” (Malcolm and Laurel, 1936 as cited by Suarez, 2008) Strong (1963) summarizes the definition of constitution by saying that: A constitution may be said to be a collection of principles according to which the powers of the government, the rights of the governed, and the relations between the two are adjusted. The constitution may be a deliberate creation on paper; it may be found in one document which itself is altered or amended as time and growth demand; or it may be a bundle of separate laws given special authority as the laws of the constitution. Or, again, it may be that the bases of the constitution are fixed in one or two fundamental laws while the rest of it depends for its authority upon the force of custom. (p. 11) Purpose/function of the Constitution (1) Serves as the supreme or fundamental law. Being a supreme law, it applies to all citizens. All other laws of the land conform to it. (De Leon and De Leon, 2011) (2) Establishes basic framework and underlying principles of government. It defines the “framework of the system of government” and assigns to the different departments their duties and powers. (Malcolm and Laurel, 1936 as cited by De Leon and De Leon) Kinds of Constitution As to their origin and history: a. Conventional or enacted—“enacted by a constituent assembly or granted by a monarch to his subjects like the Constitution of Japan in 1889” (De Leon and De Leon). By being enacted, this means that a constitution is the result of a legal action of a body of persons whose task is to make laws. As for the Japanese Constitution of 1889, this law is “largely the handiwork of the genro (elder statesman) Itō Hirobumi, [who] called for a bicameral parliament (the Diet) with an elected lower house and a prime minister and cabinet appointed by the emperor.” (Meiji, 2012, para. 1) b. Cumulative or evolved—“is a product of growth or a long period of development originating in customs, traditions, judicial decisions, etc. rather from a deliberate and formal enactment.” An example of this is the English Constitution. (De Leon and De Leon)
(De Leon and De Leon) b. Constitution of government—its provisions should set the “framework of government and its powers. Unwritten—“a product of political evolution. As to manner of amending them: a.” without necessarily amending it every now and then. Aptly said: “It is short and concise but covers the most important parts”.” Requisites of a good written constitution As to form: a.” b. as cited by De Leon and De Leon). “for a constitution is designed to be a permanent document to serve a country for many generations.d.” (Trueman. A written constitution is a codified single document. social. usually bearing different dates” (Garner. n. “the constitution which cannot be bent without being broken is a rigid constitution. Constitution of liberty—its provisions should set forth the “fundamental rights of the people” and impose “certain limitations o the powers of the government as a means of securing the enjoyment of these rights. may lead to “incalculable harm. economic. b. Written—one which has been given definite written form at a particular time.” which if not carefully crafted. as cited by De Leon and De Leon). usually a constituted authority called a “constitutional convention” (De Leon and De Leon). To this effect.” (De Leon and De Leon) c. n. consisting largely of a mass of customs.” and define the electorate. so that it would not “lead to opposing interpretations of its essential features. n. Constitution of sovereignty—its provisions should point out “the mode or procedure for amending or revising the constitution. Rigid or inelastic—“one of special sanctity which cannot be amended except by some special machinery more cumbrous than the ordinary legislative process” (Strong. 2012) Note: Strong (1963) argues that classifying constitutions as written and unwritten is a false distinction. b. This is so because “there is no constitution which is entirely unwritten and no constitution entirely written.” (De Leon and De Leon) c.” (De Leon and De Leon) As to contents: a. Broad—a constitution is required to be comprehensive in scope as much as possible. 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” (Garner. In other words. In short.d. and political conditions. This must be so to make it “flexible and easily adaptable to changing social. Definite—a constitution should be clear.” (Garner as cited by De Leon and De Leon) .d. as Strong (1963) puts it: “The constitution that can be altered or amended without special machinery is a flexible constitution. Strong (1963) says. Brief—a constitution that is too detailed would lose its very nature of being a basic or fundamental law (De Leon and De Leon. as cited by De Leon and De Leon). the British Constitution is said to be unwritten because it is an “un-codified constitution in the sense that there is no single document that can be classed as Britain's constitution. free from vagueness. It is an enacted constitution. usages and judicial decisions together with a smaller body of statutory enactments of a fundamental character. 2011). The British Constitution can be found in a variety of documents.As to their form: a.
C. Manila: Rex Book Store. Textbook on the Philippine Constitution. (1963). This prevents the immediate introduction of needed changes and may thereby retard the healthy growth and progress of the state. Sec. Manila: Rex Book Store.historylearningsite.com/EBchecked/topic/373298/Meiji-Constitution Strong. 1-22) (4) Government through suffrage (Art.P. Sec. 2012. Secs.co. New York: G. from http://www. V. 1) (6) Independence of the judiciary 9Art. Trueman. (2012).uk/british_constitution1. 2012. Selected Basic Principles underlying the new Constitution (1987 Philippine Constitution) (1) Recognition of the aid of Almighty God (Preamble) (2) Sovereignty of the people (Art. from http://www. Sec. (1868). Sec. 1) (5) Separation of powers (Art. (3) A constitution is intended not merely to meet existing conditions but to govern the future. R. De Leon. It is more stable and free from the “dangers of temporary popular passion” (Garner as cited by De Leon and De Leon). while a statute is a legislation from the people’s representatives. 1) (3) Guarantee of human rights (Art III.britannica. and De Leon. This is a result of careful deliberation. VIII. Retrieved July 11.M. while a statute is intended primarily to meet existing conditions only. The British Constitution. In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 1) (9) Rule of majority (10) Government of laws and not of men\ References: Cooley.M.” (Garner as cited by De Leon and De Leon) Constitution distinguished from statutes (De Leon and De Leon) (1) A constitution is a legislation direct form the people. 2012. (2011). [Google ebook] Boston: Little.S. T. A treatise on the constitutional limitations which rest upon the legislative power of the states of the American union. It secures fundamental rights. Sec.org/stream/historyofmodernp017892mbp#page/n6/mode/1up Suarez. Brown.htm . (2008). Online version: http://archive. Meiji Constitution. H. 2) (8) Accountability of public officers (Art. XI. VI. In History Learning Site. (2) “Its disadvantage lies in the difficulty of its amendment. II. 1) (7) Guarantee of local autonomy (Art. (4) A constitution is the supreme or fundamental law of the State to which statutes and all other laws must conform.Advantages/disadvantages of a written constitution (1) It is clear and definite over an unwritten one.F. (2) A constitution merely states the general framework of the law and the government. X. Retrieved July 11. H. C. while a statute provides the details of the subject of which it treats. Sec. It cannot be “easily bent or twisted by the legislature or by the courts” whimsically. Constitutional law reviewer. [pdf version of Chapter 1].A. Putnam’s Sons. and Company. A history of modern political constitutions.
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