Honoring the delegates of the Constitutional Conventions

Published December 9, 2020, 11:55 PM

by Senator Francis Tolentino


Senator Francis ‘Tol’ N. Tolentino

Last 7 December 2020, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 585, filed by Senator Richard J. Gordon, honoring and commemorating the delegates of the constitutional conventions, and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. During my interpellation of the senator from Zambales, I pointed out that it was important to remember the members of the constitutional conventions of the past, not just for amending the Constitution, but for their vision on how our republic should evolve. Because of the contributions and good deeds of the convention delegates, we now have an enduring, stable, and democratic republic.

From the Senate archives, I was given copies of several old resolutions filed by statesmen and stateswomen proposing amendments to the Constitution. One such resolution was Joint Resolution No. 1 filed during the Fourth Congress by Senator Ambrosio Padilla. The Joint Resolution proposed amendments on the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, emergency powers, and term limits, among others.

Another resolution was one filed during the Fifth Congress, dated 2 March 1962,  by Senator Arturo Tolentino, calling for a constitutional convention. Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 filed during the Fifth Congress, dated 5 February 1963, calling for Congress to hold a joint session to propose amendments to the Constitution or call for a constitutional convention.This Resolution was filed by Senators Marcos, Fernandez, Manglapus, Balao, De la Rosa, Rodrigo, Manahan, Osias, Cuenco, Antonino, Padilla, and Katigbak. During the Seventh Congress, Senator Leonardo Perez filed a resolution on 22 May 1970, which was a prelude to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.

These are all historical documents showing the progression from 1962 to 1970, culminating in the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1971.

The 1987 Constitution provides for the different modes to amend or revise the Constitution. One of those is through Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members. When senators and members of the House of Representatives exercise the constitutional grant of power to amend or revise the Constitution, they sit, not as members of Congress, but as a Constituent Assembly. When acting as such, the members of Congress derive their authority from the Constitution, and ultimately, from the people, in whom sovereignty resides and from whom all government authority emanates.

Our Constitution is now 33 years old, and there have been persistent calls to amend or revise it to introduce meaningful reforms to allow our Constitution to address exigencies and developments, but also protect the values and ideals on which our nation was founded. Amidst the global pandemic, recent developments in clean energy, environmental conservation, digital technology, crypto-currency, among others, and all the changes in our society and the global political and economic order, the question we now face is, is it now the proper time to consider amending our fundamental law? As we grapple with this important question, we must ensure that any national policies and strategies we will formulate will bring about genuine economic growth, sustainable development, and a more inclusive and pragmatic democratic representation.