The Constitution of the Philippines (Filipino: Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas) is the supreme law of the Philippines. The Constitution currently in effect was enacted in 1987, during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, and is popularly known as the “1987 Constitution”. Philippine constitutional law experts recognize three other previous constitutions as having effectively governed the country — the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution, the 1973 Constitution, and the 1986 Freedom Constitution. Constitutions for the Philippines were also drafted and adopted during the short-lived governments of Presidents Emilio Aguinaldo (1898) and José P. Laurel (1943).
• Background of the 1987 ConstitutionIn 1986, following the People Power Revolution which ousted Ferdinand Marcos as president, and following on her own inauguration, Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3, declaring a national policy to implement the reforms mandated by the people, protecting their basic rights, adopting a provisional constitution, and providing for an orderly translation to a government under a new constitution. President Aquino later issued Proclamation No. 9, creating a Constitutional Commission (popularly abbreviated “Con Com” in the Philippines) to frame a new constitution to replace the 1973 Constitution which took effect during the Marcos martial law regime. Aquino appointed 50 members to the Commission. The members of the Commission were drawn from varied backgrounds, including several former congressmen, a former Supreme Court Chief Justice (Roberto Concepcion), a Catholic bishop (Teodoro Bacani) and film director (Lino Brocka).
Aquino also deliberately appointed 5 members, including former Labor Minister Blas Ople, who had been allied with Marcos until the latter’s ouster. After the Commission had convened, it elected as its president Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, who had emerged as a leading figure in the anti-Marcos opposition following her retirement as the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Commission finished the draft charter within four months after it was convened. Several issues were heatedly debated during the sessions, including on the form of government to adopt, the abolition of the death penalty, the continued retention of the Clark and Subic American military bases, and the integration of economic policies into the Constitution. Brocka would walk out of the Commission before its completion, and two other delegates would dissent from the final draft.
The ConCom completed their task on October 12, 1986 and presented the draft constitution to President Aquino on October 15, 1986. After a period of nationwide information campaign, a plebiscite for its ratification was held on February 2, 1987. More than three-fourth of all votes cast, 76.37% (or 17,059,495 voters) favored ratification as against 22.65% (or 5,058,714 voters) who voted against ratification. On February 11, 1987, the new constitution was proclaimed ratified and took effect. On that same day, Aquino, the other government officials, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines pledged allegiance to the Constitution.
Significant features of the 1987 Constitution
The Constitution establishes the Philippines as a “democratic and republican State”, where “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them”. (Section 1, Article II) Consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers, the powers of the national government are exercised in main by three branches — the executive branch headed by the President, the legislative branch composed of Congress and the judicial branch with the Supreme Court occupying the highest tier of the judiciary. The President and the members of Congress are directly elected by the people, while the members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President from a list formed by the Judicial and Bar Council. As with the American system of government, it is Congress which enacts the laws, subject to the veto power of the President which may nonetheless be overturned by a two-thirds vote of Congress (Section 27(1), Article VI). The President has the constitutional duty to ensure the faithful execution of the laws (Section 17, Article VII), while the courts are expressly granted the power of judicial review (Section 1, Article VIII), including the power to nullify or interpret laws.
The President is also recognized as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Section 18, Article VII). The Constitution also establishes limited political autonomy to the local government units that act as the municipal governments for provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. (Section 1, Article X) Local governments are generally considered as falling under the executive branch, yet local legislation requires enactment by duly elected local legislative bodies. The Constitution (Section 3, Article X) mandated that the Congress would enact a Local Government Code. The Congress duly enacted Republic Act No. 7160, The Local Government Code of 1991, which became effective on 1 January 1992. The Supreme Court has noted that the Bill of Rights “occupies a position of primacy in the fundamental law”. The Bill of Rights, contained in Article III, enumerates the specific protections against State power. Many of these guarantees are similar to those provided in the American constitution and other democratic constitutions, including the due process and equal protection clause, the right against unwarranted searches and seizures, the right to free speech and the free exercise of religion, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to habeas corpus.
The scope and limitations to these rights have largely been determined by Philippine Supreme Court decisions. Outside of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution also contains several other provisions enumerating various state policies including, i.e., the affirmation of labor “as a primary social economic force” (Section 14, Article II); the equal protection of “the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception” (Section 12, Article II); the “Filipino family as the foundation of the nation” (Article XV, Section 1); the recognition of Filipino as “the national language of the Philippines” (Section 6, Article XVI), and even a requirement that “all educational institutions shall undertake regular sports activities throughout the country in cooperation with athletic clubs and other sectors.” (Section 19.1, Article XIV)
Whether these provisions may, by themselves, be the source of enforceable rights without accompanying legislation has been the subject of considerable debate in the legal sphere and within the Supreme Court. The Court, for example, has ruled that a provision requiring that the State “guarantee equal access to opportunities to public service” could not be enforced without accompanying legislation, and thus could not bar the disallowance of so-called “nuisance candidates” in presidential elections. But in another case, the Court held that a provision requiring that the State “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology” did not require implementing legislation to become the source of operative rights.
Constitution of Biak-na-Bato (1897)
The Katipunan revolution led to the Tejeros Convention where, at San Francisco de Malabon, Cavite, on March 22, 1897, the first presidential and vice presidential elections in Philippine history were held—although only the Katipuneros (members of the Katipunan) were able to take part, and not the general populace. A later meeting of the revolutionary government established there, held on November 1, 1897 at Biak-na-Bato in the town of San Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacan, established the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. The republic had a constitution drafted by Isabelo Artacho and Félix Ferrer and based on the first Cuban Constitution. It is known as the “Constitución Provisional de la República de Filipinas”, and was originally written in and promulgated in the Spanish and Tagalog languages. Malolos Constitution (1899)
The Malolos Constitution was the first republican constitution in Asia. It declared that sovereignty resides exclusively in the people, stated basic civil rights, separated the church and state, and called for the creation of an Assembly of Representatives to act as the legislative body. It also called for a Presidential form of government with the president elected for a term of four years by a majority of the Assembly. It was titled “Constitución política”, and was written in Spanish following the declaration of independence from Spain, proclaimed on January 20, 1899, and was enacted and ratified by the Malolos Congress, a Congress held in Malolos, Bulacan.
Acts of the United States Congress
The Philippines was a United States Territory from December 10, 1898 to March 24, 1934. As such, the Philippines was under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States during this period. Two acts of the United States Congress passed during this period can be considered Philippine constitutions in that those acts defined the fundamental political principles, and established the structure, procedures, powers and duties, of the Philippine government. 1.The Philippine Organic Act of 1902, sometimes known as the “Philippine Bill of 1902”, was the first organic law for the Philippine Islands enacted by the United States Congress. It provided for the creation of a popularly elected Philippine Assembly, and specified that legislative power would be vested in a bicameral legislature composed of the Philippine Commission (upper house) and the Philippine Assembly (lower house). Its key provisions included a bill of rights for the Filipinos and the appointment of two nonvoting Filipino resident commissioners to represent the Philippines in the United States Congress.
2.The Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, sometimes known as “Jones Law”, modified the structure of the Philippine government by removing the Philippine Commission as the legislative upper house, replacing it with a Senate elected by Filipino voters. This act also explicitly stated that it was and had always been the purpose of the people of the United States to withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognize Philippine independence as soon as a stable government can be established therein. Though not a constitution itself, the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 provided authority and defined mechanisms for the establishment of a formal constitution via a constitutional convention.
Commonwealth and Third Republic (1935)
The 1935 Constitution 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 onto its “possession” on the grounds that it was too politically immature and hence unready for full, real independence. The original 1935 Constitution provided for unicameral National Assembly and the President was elected to a six-year term without re-election. 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 electoral commission.
The Constitution now granted the President 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 so.
Second Republic (1943)
The 1943 Constitution 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 Preparatory Committee for Philippine Independence tasked with drafting a new constitution was composed in large part, of members of the prewar 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 1943. Laurel was highly regarded by the Japanese for having openly criticised the US 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 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 José 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 Chief Justice José 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 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 elected.
The New Society and the Fourth Republic (1973)
The 1973 Constitution, promulgated after Marcos’ declaration of martial law, was supposed to introduce a parliamentary-style government. Legislative power was vested in a National Assembly whose members were elected for six-year terms. The President was ideally supposed to be elected as the symbolic and purely ceremonial 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 meant to be 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 four times (arguably five depending on how one considers Proclamation No. 3 of 1986). On October 16-17 1976, a majority of barangay voters (Citizen Assemblies) approved that martial law should be continued and ratified the amendments to the Constitution proposed by President Marcos.
The 1976 amendments were:
•an Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) substituting for the Interim National Assembly •the President would also become the Prime Minister and he would continue to exercise legislative powers until martial law should have been lifted. The Sixth Amendment authorized the President to legislate:
Whenever in the judgment of the President there exists a grave emergency or a threat or imminence thereof, or whenever the Interim Batasang Pambansa or the regular National Assembly fails or is unable to act adequately on any matter for any reason that in his judgment requires immediate action, he may, in order to meet the exigency, issue the necessary decrees, orders or letters of instructions, which shall form part of the law of the land. The 1973 Constitution was further amended in 1980 and 1981. In the 1980 amendment, the retirement age of the members of the Judiciary was extended to 70 years. In the 1981 amendments, the false parliamentary system was formally modified into a French-style semi-presidential system: •executive power was restored to the President;
•direct election of the President was restored;
•an Executive Committee composed of the Prime Minister and not more than fourteen members was created to “assist the President in the exercise of his powers and functions and in the performance of his duties as he may prescribe;” and the Prime Minister was a mere head of the Cabinet.
•Further, the amendments instituted electoral reforms and provided that a natural born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land for use by him as his residence. The last amendments in 1984 abolished the Executive Committee and restored the position of Vice-President (which did not exist in the original, unamended 1973 Constitution). In actual practice, while the 1973 Constitution was ideally supposed to set up a true parliamentary system, the late President Marcos had made use of subterfuge and manipulation in order to keep executive power for himself, rather than devolving executive powers to the Parliament, as headed by the Prime Minister.
The end result was that the 1973 Constitution – due to all amendments and subtle manipulations – was merely the abolition of the Senate and a series of cosmetic text-changes where the old American-derived terminologies such House of Representatives became known as the “Batasang Pambansa” (National Assembly), Departments became known as “Ministries”, cabinet secretaries became known as “cabinet ministers”, and the President’s assistant – the Executive Secretary – became known as the “Prime Minister.” Ultimately, Marcos’ so-called “Parliamentary System” therefore functioned as an authoritarian-run Presidential System due to the series of amendments and other modifications put in place after the 1973 Constitution was ratified. 1986 “Freedom 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 as a provisional constitution to would prepare for the next constitution. It adopted certain provisions from the 1973 constitution and granted the President broad powers to reorganise the government and remove officials from office, and mandated that the president would appoint a commission to draft a new constitution.
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Court of the Philippines. 13 April 2004. http://www.supremecourt.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2004/apr2004/161872.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-09. # ^ “Oposa et al. v. Fulgencio (G.R. No. 101083)”. Supreme Court of the Philippines (requoted by Lawphil.net). 30 July 1993. http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1993/jul1993/gr_101083_1993.html. Retrieved 2007-06-09. # ^ Wikisource-logo.svg 1897 Constitution of Biak-na-Bato (Philippines) at Wikisource. # ^ “1897 Biac-na-Bato Constitution”. Corpus Juris. 1 November 1897. http://www.thecorpusjuris.com/laws/constitutions/8-philippineconstitutions/300-1897-biac-na-bato-constitution.html?showall=1. Retrieved 2009-01-25. # ^ Tucker, Spencer C. (2009). The encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars: a political, social, and military history. ABC-CLIO. p. 364. ISBN 9781851099511. http://books.google.com/?id=8V3vZxOmHssC # ^ Guevara, Sulpico, ed (2005). The laws of the first Philippine Republic (the laws of Malolos) 1898-1899.. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library (published 1972). pp. 104–119. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=philamer;iel=1;view=toc;idno=aab1246.0001.001. Retrieved 2008-03-26 . (English translation by Sulpicio Guevara) # ^ Guevara 2005, p. 88.