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Amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution

Posted by Rey Cartojano - 2009/06/06 05:32 _____________________________________

Tomorrow's (07 June 2009) Dura Lex, Sed Lex, live at Bombo Radyo Gensan, will tackle the hot issues surrounding House Resolution 1106, especially on its attempts to amend the 1987 Constitution. Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution provides for procedures for amending or revising the Constitution, to wit: Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention. Section 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter. The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right. Section 3. The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention. Section 4. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision. Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition. Hence, the above provisions laid out three ways of amending the Constitution: through a constituent assembly, a constitutional convention, and a people's initiative. The following is a reprint of the article PHILIPPINE CHARTER CHANGE from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which tackles major historical attempts of amending or revising the Constitution. Charter Change or "cha-cha" in the Philippines refers to the political and other related processes involved in amending or revising the current 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. Under the current constitution there are three modes of which it could be amended: people's initiative (PI), constituent assembly and constitutional convention. All three would lead to a referendum wherein the proposed amendment/s or revision/s has to be approved by the majority of Filipinos in order to be adopted. The first Charter Change attempt on the 1987 Constitution was under President Fidel V. Ramos. Among the proposed changes in the constitution included a shift to a parliamentary system and the lifting of term limits of public officials. Ramos argued that the changes will bring more accountability, continuity and responsibility to the "gridlock" prone Philippine version of presidential bicameral system. Some politically active religious groups, opposition politicians, business tycoons and left wing organizations opposed the Charter change process that was supposed to lead to a national referendum. Critics argued that the proposed constitutional changes for one would benefit the incumbent which during that time was Ramos. On September 21, 1997, a church organized rally brought in an estimated half a million people to Rizal Park. Furthermore, on Sept. 23, 1997 the Charter Change advocates suffered a setback when the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, narrowly dismissed a petition filed by the People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) that sought to amend the Constitution through a signature campaign or "People's Initiative". The Supreme Court dismissed the petition on the grounds that the Peoples Initiative mode does not have enough enabling law for the proposed revisions or amendments in the 1987 constitution. Had the petition been successful, a national plebiscite would have been held for proposed changes. Under President Joseph Estrada, there was a similar attempt to change the 1987 constitution. The process is termed as CONCORD or Constitutional Correction for Development. Unlike Charter change under Ramos and Arroyo the CONCORD proposal, according to its proponents, would only amend the 'restrictive' economic provisions of the constitution that is considered as impeding the entry of more foreign investments in the Philippines. There were once again objections from opposition politicians, religious sects and left wing organizations based on diverse arguments such as national patrimony and the proposed constitutional changes would be self serving. Like his predecessor, Estrada's government was accused of pushing Charter change for their own vested interests. Estrada's presidency was cut short in January 2001 by the second "People Power" in the Philippines; the 2001 EDSA Revolution
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Under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, there were more solid attempts to change the 1987 constitution. Charter change was included in Arroyos election campaign platform during the 2004 elections and was considered as a high prority. After winning the 2004 elections, President Arroyo by virtue of Executive Order No. 453, created the Consultative Commission headed by Dr. Jose V. Abueva. The task of the Consultative Commission was to propose the "necessary" revisions on the 1987 constitution after various consultation with different sectors of society. After about a year of consultations, the Consultative Commission came up with proposals that included: a shift to a unicameral parliamentary form of government; economic liberalization; further decentralization of national government and more empowerment of local governments via transition to a parliamentary-federal government system. While Charter change and "opening up" of the Philippine economy are generally supported by small to mid size businesses in the country (such as Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP)), it is opposed by the powerful Makati Business Club (MBC).

Sigaw ng Bayan's People's Initiative The political process that would carry on the proposed amendments recommended by the Consultative Commission was campaigned by the Sigaw ng Bayan group (Cry of the People) and ULAP in 2005-2006. Sigaw ng Bayan was headed by Atty.Raul Lambino who was himself a former member of the Consultative Commission.The aim of Sigaw ng Bayan group was to gather enough signatures in order to call for a plebiscite on the proposed constitutional changes via the People's Initiative mode. Once again some organizations, politicians, religious sects, business tycoons, political groups such as One Voice opposed the "cha-cha" process based on various reasons and beliefs such as the so called untimeliness of the proposed amendments/revisions and the allegation that the incumbent President and her allies would directly benefit from the proposed changes. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an organization labeled by the United States as terrorist, denounced the cha-cha process as "anti-masses"; they called on their paramilitary group, the New People's Army, and their left wing supporters to campaign against Charter change and intensify the destruction of what they viewed as a feudal, fascist Philippine regime backed by the imperialist United States. On October 25,2006 the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, with a vote of 8-7, narrowly rejected Sigaw ng Bayans Peoples Initiative; this time, on the grounds that the initiative failed to comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution for conducting a peoples initiative. The insufficient enabling law of the 1997 Supreme Court decision however was overturned by the same Supreme Court in the second motion for reconsideration by Sigaw ng Bayan; with the Supreme Court announcing in November 2006 that there is adequate enabling law for the peoples initiative mode to successfully propose amendments to the 1987 constitution. This legally opens the possibility of a new peoples initiative that could seek a plebiscite on the issue of Charter change in the Philippines.

Constituent Assembly under De Venecia Furthermore, in December 2006, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. (JDV) attempted to push for the constitutional change process by convening the House of Representatives of the Philippines and the Senate of the Philippines into a Constituent Assembly or "con-ass" (one of the three modes of which the 1987 Constitution could be amended). Once again, the anti-charter change forces threatened massive protests on the political process that could lead to a plebiscite on the charter change issue. Former President Joseph Estrada (who was under house arrest at that time); left wing organizations such as BAYAN; Brother Mike Velarde of El Shaddai (movement); Brother Eddie Villanueva of Jesus is Lord Movement (JLM); Butch Valdes of Philippines LaRouche Youth Movement; Jose Maria Sison (who is currently in exile) of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and other cults and personalities called on their followers to attend protests that will culminate in a major "prayer rally" on December 17, 2006. A few days before the major rally that was heavily publicized by the mainstream media in the Philippines, House Speaker De Venecia retreated on the constituent assembly (con-ass) mode to give way for charter change via constitutional convention (con-con): the only mode of constitutional change that many anti-charter change groups said they will support. Speaker De Venecia "challenged" everyone to support his new proposal that the election of constitutional convention delegates be held simultaneous with the May 2007 local elections. Despite the concessions made by Speaker De Venecia, the anti charter change forces ignored his new proposal and still pushed through with the rally that was supposed to reach 500,000 to 3 million people. However, the turnout based on Director Wilfredo Garcia's (chief of Philippine National Police-Directorate for Operations) and other media reporter's estimate did not grow beyond 15,000 and was significantly composed of members of Filipino left wing organizations.In the "prayer rally", the religious leaders called on the whole nation to embrace "repentance", "moral renewal" and "character change" instead of systematic changes such as charter change. Constituent Assembly under Nograles-Pimentel
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Main article: Federalism in the Philippines Rep. Monico O. Puentevella on May 7, 2008, filed House Concurrent Resolution No. 15 which supported Senate Resolution No. 10 backed by 16 senators. Unlike the Nene Pimentel Senate Resolution, Puentevella included the option of holding a constitutional convention, but excluded the People's Initiative mode. Prospero Nograles, a self-proclaimed advocate of federalism, on May 1, 2008, announced: "This federal system of government is close to my heart as a Mindanaoan leader and I'm sure most of the leaders in Mindanao will agree that we have long clamored for it. Senate Resolution 10 is a pleasant surprise because the Senate has a long history of opposing any move to amend the Constitution." The joint Senate resolution called for the creation of 11 federal states in the country, by convening of Congress into a constituent assembly for the purpose of revising the Constitution to establish a federal system of government. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stated to visiting Swiss President Pascal Couchepin: We advocate federalism as a way to ensure long-lasting peace in Mindanao. Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, on August 12, 2008, stated: Its all systems go for Charter change. We are supporting Senate Joint Resolution No. 10. Naughty insinuations that she was going for Chacha because she wants to extend her term in office prompted the President to make her position clear. She is calling for a constitutional amendment in order to bring about the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. An opportunity should be given to the whole country to avail of the reform effects of federalism. The sentiment of many people there is to give local officials more authority in order to perform better. And the federal set-up is the way forward to this. The President has approved the way forward and theres no question about it. If she has the political will to do it she has to muster political will in spite of all these noises. Meanwhile, Representative Victor Ortega of La Union, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments said, the results of his survey showed that 115 (94.26%) of the 123 solons were in favor of amending the Constitution. However, opposition and leftist lawmakers questioned the results and intent of Ortegas survey, and called Arroyos proposal a ploy for her perpetuation in power and the removal of protectionist provisions in the Charter. Ortegas survey showed 62 respondents favor Charter change through a constitutional assembly, and 89 respondents were in favor of shifting to a parliamentary form of government compared to 56 who voted for federalism, while 70 respondents preferred to amend the Constitution the 2010 presidential elections. Members of the committee on constitutional amendments would vote by the end August on whether to amend the Constitution or not. The latest of these attempts to amend the Philippine Constitution is House Resolution No. 1109 of the House of Representatives, the full text of which is reprinted below: A RESOLUTION CALLING UPON THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO CONVENE FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONSIDERING PROPOSALS TO AMEND OR REVISE THE CONSTITUTION, UPON A VOTE OF THREE-FOURTHS OF ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHEREAS, there are proposals to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution, which is presently enforced, but any of such proposals cannot be considered, heard, debated, approved or disapproved, unless any of the modes expressly provided by Article XVII of the present Constitution is adopted; WHEREAS, adopting a mode of amending or revising the Constitution, as mandated by said Article XVII is a condition precedent, a pre-requisite, before specific proposals to amend or revise the Constitution could be considered by the Members of Congress, convened to exercise the constitutionally ordained power to amend or revise the Constitution. WHEREAS, there is a recognized distinction between the exercise of legislative powers of Congress from the exercise of the constituent power to amend or revise the Constitution; WHEREAS, Congress, in the exercise of its legislative power as provided in Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, cannot amend or revise the Constitution, but it is through the exercise of its constituent power under Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution that any amendment to, or revision of the Constitution may be proposed, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; WHEREAS, while the prescribed method of enacting constitutional change in the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions are different from the method of enacting ordinary legislation, there is a very distinct and notable difference between the 1935 and the 1987 Constitution, which respectively provides as follows: The 1935 Constitution: The Congress in joint session assembled, by a vote of three-fourths of all Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives voting separately may propose amendments to this Constitution or a call a convention for that purpose. The 1987 Constitution:
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Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of threefourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention. WHEREAS, it is to be emphasized and underscored that some essential words and phrases in the aforequoted 1935 Constitution were deleted and no longer contained in the aforequoted 1987 Constitution, such that the amendments by deletion are as follows: 1. The phrase in joint session assembled in the 1935 Constitution was deleted; 2. The phrase that the Senate and the House of Representatives, voting separately was also deleted; 3. The percentage of voting three-fourths of the respective membership of each House (the Senate and the House of Representatives) treated separately has also been deleted and substituted with a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of Congress (i.e., of the members of Congress without distinction as to which institution of Congress they belong to). WHEREAS, the intention of the amendments of the 1935 Constitution by deletions of certain words and phrases thereon by the 1987 Constitution are clear and manifest as underscored in the preceding WHEREAS Clauses and by such deletions, the meaning and application of the corresponding provisions of the 1987 Constitution on Amendments and Revision have been changed. There are however oppositors claiming adverse legal interests who claim that, notwithstanding that the express, clear, and unambiguous provision of Article XVII Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution that any amendment to, or revision of the 1987 Constitution that any amendment to, or revision of the 1987 Constitution shall be upon a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of Congress (i.e., not three-fourths of each House voting separately as the oppositors contend), a justiciable controversy involving the active antagonistic assertion of alleged legal rights by the oppositors, on one side, and the denial thereof by the proponents of this Resolution, on the other side, shall ripen for judicial determination as and when this Resolution calling upon the Members of Congress to convene in exercise of its constituent power is filed, heard, and approved. WHEREAS, while no specific proposals to amend or revise the present Constitution could formally be given due course unless and until this call to convene Members of Congress, as provided herein, is effected. It is hereby pledged and covenanted by the proponents of this Resolution, that by their signatures hereto that whatever constitutional changes may be proposed at the appropriate time, preferably after the constitutional issues may be proposed at the appropriate time, preferably after the constitutional issues of construction and interpretation by the Honorable Supreme Court of the justiciable controversy that may arise shall have been resolved with finality that: 1. The term of office of the incumbent President and Vice-President shall not be extended; 2. The term of office of Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Mayors, and other elected officials whose term of office shall expire in 2010 shall not be extended; 3. The term of office of the twelve (12) Senators who were elected in 2007 for a six (6) year term ending in 2013 shall not be shortened and they shall be allowed to finish their term; 4. That there shall be elections in 2010. WHEREAS, there is a specific proposal that for the Philippines to be internationally competitive in attracting foreign investments and technology transfers that the economic provisions of the Constitution is proposed to be amended in an appropriate manner, but such specific proposal to amend the present Constitution cannot be formally presented and resolved until the mode for amending or revising the Constitution is convened and made operational through the application of Article XVII of the present Constitution. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BE CONVENED FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROPOSING AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION UPON A VOTE OF THREEFOURTHS OF ALL ITS MEMBERS AND THAT UPON ITS BEING CONVENED SHALL ADOPT ITS RULES OF PROCEDURES THAT SHALL GOVERN ITS PROCEEDINGS. Adopted.
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