Definition, Types, and Functions of Constitution

According to Mahler, it may be useful to think of constitutions as “power maps” for political systems. That is, it is often the constitution of a nation that shows us the political lay of the land and that describes the manner in which power is distributed among the many actors in the political movement, or in the political environment in general. We look to the constitution for an explanation of who has the power to do what, what the limitations on power are in a given state, and what the relationship are between and among the many political actors we may find in a given state.

The idea of a constitution as a fundamental expression of the power relationships in a political regime dates back to the time of the Greek and Roman republics; constitutions were the focus for comparison in Aristotle’s major studies of political systems.


Constitutions can be classified according to:

  1. Genesis or development
    • Conventional or Enacted – the conventional constitution is crafted and promulgated by the people through their representatives in a constitutional conventions.
    • Cumulative or Evolved – one which is product of growth or a long period of development originating in customs, traditions, judicial decisions, rather than from a deliberate and formal enactment.
  2. Form
    • Written – one which has been given definite written form at a particular time, usually by a specially constituted authority called a “constitutional convention”
    • Unwritten – one which is entirely the product of political evolution, constituted by a large mass of customs, usages and judicial decisions together with a smaller body of statutory enactments of a fundamental character.
  3. Manner of Amending
    • 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.
    • Flexible or Elastic – one which possess no higher legal authority than ordinary laws and which may be altered in the same way as other laws.

Considering all these, we can therefore say the Philippines constitution is a conventional (or enacted), written, rigid, (or inelastic).


The following are the functions of a constitution:

  1. Constitution serves as an expression of ideology and Philosophy.
  2. Constitution serves as expression of the basic laws of the regime.
  3. Constitution provides organizational framework for governments.
  4. Constitutions usually say something about the levels of government of the political System. They discuss how many levels of government there will be, and describe what powers fall within the jurisdiction of the national government and what powers do not belong the national government.
  5. Constitution provides means and direction for their own modifications to guarantee changes once change is necessary. This prevents the collapse of the entire political system for want of mechanism of change.


  1. Form – constitution must posses a form that is:
    • Brief – concise and basic.
    • Broad – comprehensive and it must cover the entire or whole area of government.
    • Definite – precise and not ambiguous and vague.
  2. Contents – constitution must contain:
    • Constitution of government which discusses governmental structure and function, and how power will be distributed and shared. See Art. VI, VII, VIII, IX, X.
    • Constitution of Liberty which will provide and covers the basis and recognition of the right of the people. Remember that a good constitution does not give but recognize the rights of the people, and the constitution of liberty tries to provide this requirement. See Art. III, XIII.
    • Constitution of Sovereignty which provides the absolute power of the state to determine the course of its own future and the mode of introducing amendments to the fundamental law. See Art. XVIII.