Black’s Law Dictionary defines a Constitution as “The fundamental and organic law of a nation or state that establishes the institutions and apparatus of government, defines the scope of governmental sovereign powers, and guarantees individual civil rights and civil liberties.” The present Constitution of the Philippines:
The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: approved by the 1986 Constitutional Commission on October 12, 1986; presented to President Corazon C. Aquino on October 15, 1986; ratified on February 2, 1987 by plebiscite; proclaimed in force on February 11, 1987. Past constitutions of the Philippines:
The 1986 Freedom Constitution : promulgated by Presidential Proclamation, March 25, 1986. The 1973 Constitution : as Amended in October 16-17, 1976, on January 30, 1980, and April 7, 1981. The 1973 Constitution : draft presented to President Marcos by the 1971 Constitutional Convention on December 1, 1972; deemed ratified by Citizens’ Assemblies held from January 10-15, 1973, proclaimed in force by Proclamation by President Marcos, January 17, 1973. The 1943 Constitution : as approved by the Preparatory Committee on Philippine Independence, September 4, 1943 and ratified by the KALIBAPI Convention, September 7, 1943. The 1935 Constitution : as amended on June 18, 1940, and on March 11, 1947. The 1935 Constitution : as approved by the 1934 Constitutional Convention on February 8, 1935, certified by the President of the United States on March 25, 1935, and ratified by plebiscite on May 14, 1935. The Jones Law of 1916 : enacted into law by the United States Congress on August 29, 1916. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 : enacted into law by the United States Congress on July 1, 1902 The 1899 Malolos Constitution : approved by the Malolos Congress on November 29, 1898, draft returned by President Aguinaldo on December 1, 1898 for amendments, which the Congress refused; approved by President Aguinaldo on December 23, 1898; formally adopted by the Malolos Congress on January 20, 1899, promulgated by President Emilio Aguinaldo on January 21, 1899.
Constitution of the Philippines
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 C. Aquino, and is popularly known as the “1987 Constitution”. Philippineconstitutional law experts recognise 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 Constitution
In 1986, following the People Power Revolution which ousted Ferdinand E. Marcos as president, and following on her own inauguration, Corazon C. 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 transition 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 Concepción), 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 thedeath 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 12 October 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-fourths 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.
Parts of the 1987 Constitution
The Constitution is divided into 18 parts, excluding the Preamble, which are called Articles. The Articles are as follows:
* Article I – National Territory
* Article II – Declaration of Principles and State Policies
* Article III – Bill of Rights
* Article IV – Citizenship
* Article V – Suffrage
* Article VI – Legislative Department
* Article VII – Executive Department
* Article VIII – Judicial Department
* Article IX – Constitutional Commission
* Article X – Local Government
* Article XI – Accountability of Public Officers
* Article XII – National Economy and Patrimony
* Article XIII – Social Justice and Human Rights
* Article XIV – Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports
* Article XV – The Family
* Article XVI – General Provisions
* Article XVII – Amendments or Revisions
* Article XVIII – Transitory Provisions
Preamble of the1987 Constitution
The Preamble reads:
“| PreambleWe, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this 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 branchheaded 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 forprovinces, 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 speechand 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.