Constitution needs no amendment at this time — Davide

Published January 17, 2018, 3:22 PM

by Nida Ramos-Oribiana

By Mario Casayuran

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said there is absolutely no need to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution.

‘’There is nothing in the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines which can stand amendment or revision at this time,’’ Davide told the Senate constitutional amendments committee chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. (left) (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. (left) (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The Constitution is the political bible of our country and people. It must be honored, protected and defended until its provisions or some of it are proven to be ineffective, inadequate, insufficient or even irrelevant after all genuine and patriotic efforts have been tried, exerted and pursued through and by legislative efforts or acts of government to comply with the Constitution’s  mandates or commands,’’ he added.

The hearing was the second since last year for the Senate constitutional committee based on a joint resolution calling the Senate and the House of Representation to propose amendments or a revision of  the Constitution either through a Constitutional Convention (Con Con) or through Constitutional Assembly (Con Ass) by three-fourths of the sitting lawmakers.

Well-funded propaganda machine

Davide expressed sadness that President Rodrigo Duterte is now leading the move to amend the Charter by changing the system of government from unitary to federal.

He conceded that the President’s PDP-Laban party is now the ‘’super majority’’ at the House of Representatives.

‘’The propaganda machine to influence our people to support federalism and even the parliamentary system appears to be well-funded,’’ he added.

Davide fears that the adoption of the federal system carries with it the parliamentary government, the abolition of positions, postponement of the scheduled 2019 elections, extending the terms of current elected officials, removal of citizenship requirements in the national patrimony and economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“This removal is a sellout of our patrimony–which God has reserved for our people–to foreign invaders, at no cost to the latter,’’  he said.

‘’The Philippines  can thus become a colony of a foreign power,’’ he warned.

Davide noted that nobody can stop the ‘’super majority’’ from taking ‘’the bullet train to reach as soon possible the final decision of adopting a new Constitution.’’

Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid, a commissioner of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (Con Com), told the Senate committee that she is against amending or revising the “Cory Constitution.”

In case there is a body to amend the Charter, it should be done through the Constitutional Convention (Con Con) mode where delegates have to be elected nationally.

The two other modes are the Constitutional  Assembly (Con Ass) whose members are the sitting congressmen and senators, and the ‘’People’s Initiative.’’

Constitution needs a once-over

Davide described a shift to a federal form of government as “a trip to hell,” to which former Chief Justice Reynato Puno replied he would not know as he has not gone to hell, eliciting guffaws from the audience.

For his part, Puno said the Constitution is now 31 years old “and it is time to give the 1987 Constitution a once-over, a no-nonsense review.’’

He emphasized that he prefers a Con Con mode of amending or revising the Constitution.

Puno said he has misgivings of having a Con Ass because the ‘’primary business of Congress is to make laws’’ and Congress should not be saddled with the task of altering the Charter.

He pointed out that Congress is saddled with so many pending legislations and its time would be used up by the upcoming impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

If they act as a Con Ass, Puno said, some Congress members might find themselves in a difficult situation and their prospective decisions would cast a pall of suspicion.

Puno said the 1987 Constitution was ‘’done in haste because then President Cory (Aquino) did not want to rule on a Freedom Constitution where she enjoyed authoritarian power.’’

That is why the 1987 Constitution contains the phrase ‘’as may be provided by law,’’ a phrase not found in the 1934 and 1973 Constitutions.

He also said that the 1986 Con Com wanted a unicameral, national form of government but, in its haste, it opted for a bicameral form.

That is why there is the current problem where the manner of amending the Constitution is ‘’a riddle wrapped in mystery,’’ he said.

‘Why amend’

In opening the public hearing, Pangilinan asked aloud who will benefit from altering the Constitution.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros expressed doubts on the capacity of the Duterte administration to carry out an inclusive, democratic process for Charter Change.

‘’We are now force-fed their brand of federalism that raises a lot of problematic issues, and do not seem to value people-led and participatory fiscal processes. My party Akbayan supports federalism, but with specific features that ensure the creation of wide democratic spaces and promote human development,” she said.

‘’I assert that the question of “why amend” must always attend the question of “how to amend.” In this case, it is very clear that the agenda of amendment is to facilitate the transition to PDP-Laban’s brand of federalism, which will impact greatly on term limits and the composition of the legislature, including the present legislature. For these reasons, a constitutional convention (Con Con) is our best step forward,’’ she added.