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Methods of Amending the Constitution

Changing the constitution may happen in two ways. First, is through “Amendments” and Second, through the process called “Revision”

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There are many different ways of amending constitution and this differs from one system of governance to another. In Great Britain for example, amending their constitution may simply require an act of the parliament. But in the case of the Philippines, changing our constitution may happen in two ways. First, is through “Amendments” and Second, through the process called “Revision”. Amendment is a change effected in some part or parts of constitution without considering the whole document, Revision on the other hand is a rewriting or substantial changing in the constitution viewed in its entirety.

Below are the methods by which amendments or revision may be done to the 1987 constitution:

Constitutional Convention

A Constitutional Convention is a body established by law to frame a new Constitution or revise an existing one. It requires the direct election of the delegates by the people. How many delegates are elected will be determined by Congress.

Constitutional Convention may be called for in two (2) ways, namely:

  1. Congress by two-thirds o9f all its members may call a constitutional convention, or
  2. Congress by a majority vote of all its members( in case neither the 3⁄4 nor 2/3 vote can be mustered) may toss the question to call a constitutional convention to the electorate in election. The question shall be decided by the majority of the votes cast in the corresponding plebiscite.

A constitutional convention is a body assembled for the expressed purpose of framing a constitution, or revising the existing Constitution, or formulating amendments to it for the approval of the electorate. Being the direct representative of the people vested with the authority to draw the fundamental law of the state, its members have to be elected by the qualified voters.

The Constitutional Commission of 1986, by nature of its function, was no different from a constitutional convention with elected members, and it, therefore, possessed the same status and powers (De Leon, 2000, Bernas, 2001).

Problem: One of the problems is the cost involved in this mode. One estimate is 8 billion pesos needed to support a body that will be twice the size of Congress.

Constituent Assembly

As a Constituent Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives become a constituent body exercising special power to formulate a new constitution or propose amendments to the constitution.

It is to be noted that the vote requirements is more stringent if the amendments are proposed by Congress itself. This is to ensure more deliberations and deeper study and consideration of the merits of the proposed changes to the fundamental law.

Problem: One of the problems in the 1987 constitution is that it is not clear on whether the two houses will vote jointly or separately.

People’s Initiative

The people may directly propose amendments to the Constitution provided that there is a petition of at least 12% of all registered voters, and provided that every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of its registered voters.

Requirement for People’s Initiative

  1. There must be a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters.
  2. Every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters thereof.
  3. The amendment through initiative is not made within 5 years following the ratification of the present constitution or oftener than once every five (5) years thereafter.

Problem: In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that this mode cannot be used without implementing legislation by Congress. Just recently, Rep. Imee Marcos has introduced the required enabling bill.

Some Notes on Charter Change

To have five constitutions since we regained our independence in 1946, a period of some 60 years, does not only reflect our inability to consolidate our constitutional democracy, but also reflects our general sentiment to put in place a more reliable and desirable system of political accountability. The lack of a more accountable system of governance contributes largely to our continuing political instability as a nation-state. In 1986, we restored our adversarial separation of powers in a presidential system that continually creates conflict and gridlock between the President and Congress. Our outmoded form of government and dysfunctional political parties sustain our politics of personality, patronage, cronyism, and corruption and without transparency and public accountability. Despite its many positive features that are worth preserving, the 1987 Constitution has not enabled us to rebuild our various institutions for good governance. As many Filipino political scientists have noted, we have a counter-productive system with its powers, authority and resources centralized in the national government, with a problematic system of accountability, at the expense of local governments, leaders, citizens, and entrepreneurs and countrywide development. The call for changing certain parts of the 1987 Constitution to improve governance and empower our people should not be dismissed without due consideration. Our system of governmental accountability must be strengthened for in this way we will enable our government, our private sector and our citizens to respond more effectively to our continuing problems, challenges and goals as a nation.

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