Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Amending The Constitution


1.Proposal may be made by:

a.Congress acting as Constituent Assembly – vote of ¾ of all its members.

b.Constitutional Convention – called either by 2/3 vote of all the members of the Congress or by a majority vote of all the members of Congress, with the question of whether or not to call a constitutional convention to be resolved by the people in a plebiscite.

c.People’s Initiative – by a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein.

No amendment in this manner shall be authorized within 5 years following the ratification of this Constitution (1987) nor more often than once every 5 years;

RA 6753 (System of Initiative and Referendum) does NOT authorize a system of initiative to amend the Constitution (see Santiago v. Comelec). The law was deemed sufficient only to cover the systems of initiative on national and local legislations because Sec 2 on the Statement of Policies of the Act does not suggest an initiative on the amendment to the Constitution. Sec 5 of the Act does not provide for the contents of the provision for initiative on the Constitution. Further, the Act does not provide a sub-title for initiative on the Constitution simply means that the main thrust of the Act is initiative and referendum on National and Local Laws.

2. Ratification

 Proposed amendments shall be submitted to the people and shall be deemed ratified by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite, held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days, after approval of the proposal by Congress or ConCon, or after certification by the COMELEC of sufficiency of petition of the people.

“Doctrine of Proper Submission” – plebiscite may be held on the same day as regular election (Gonzales vs Comelec) provided the people are sufficiently informed of the amendments to be voted upon, to conscientiously deliberate thereon, to express their will in a genuine manner. Submission of piece-meal amendments is unconstitutional. All the amendments must be submitted for ratification at one plebiscite only. The people have to be given a proper frame of reference in arriving at their decision. They have no idea yet of what the rest of the amended constitution would be (Tolentino vs Comelec).

In the recent case of Lambino vs COMELEC, the Supreme Court denied the petition of the Lambino Group to reverse COMELEC’s decision in not giving due course to People’s Initiative citing not only the previous Santiago vs COMELEC Ruling but also the fact that the petition itself was not attached to the sheets supposedly signed by the voters. Thus, there is doubt whether these voters actually know and understand what they are proposing.

Recently, the allies of Pres. GMA in Congress has formed a Senateless Constituent Assembly but such move were opposed by majority of the civil society as well as the Church and various Religious Sects like El Shaddai and Iglesia ni Cristo. The Con-Ass were supposed to convene on Friday but the latest I heard was because of the social and political unrest that it may bring, the Administration is now considering the formation of a Constitutional Convention.

If that happens, GMA will go down in history as the president who used all modes of proposals just to amend/revise the 1987 Constitution.

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