Manila: A congressional measure calling for the convening of a body that would revise the Philippines’ nearly three decades’ old statute has been put forward in the legislature.
Resolution No. 1 calls for setting in motion the processes needed for crafting a new statute that would replace the 1987 Constitution. It involves holding elections for members of a “constitutional convention” that will be charged with revising the basic law.
“There is a need to re-examine the Constitution to determine if it is still attuned or responsive to the demands of present-day realities,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said as referred to Resolution No. 1, the first measure taken up by the Senate and House of Representatives following the May 9 elections that elected President Rodrigo Duterte.
Resolution No 1, which was filed simultaneously in both the House of Representative and Senate, calls for the election of members of the Constitutional Convention by January of next year. The members of the body will propose amendments to the 29-year-old Constitution.
Various administrations have attempted to revise the statute before, however, each time civil society or some sectors would initiate such move, these would be met by strong opposition.
President Fidel V. Ramos, during his tenure in the mid-1990s, had attempted to initiate measures to convert Congress into a charter-emending Constitutional Assembly, but this were vehemently opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and some sectors including the political left.
Those who opposed had been wary that measures to change the charter would bring the country to a constitutional dictatorship.
Similar attempts to revise the charter during the administration of President Joseph Estrada in 1999 and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were similarly opposed by the same sectors.
Filipinos are apprehensive of any action to revise the constitution. It had a bad experience during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1973 when the statute was revised to extend the latter’s rule and oppressive administration. The Marcos presidency lasted for nearly three decades.
But Drilon said that this time around, safeguards would be instituted so that fears of the constitution being used to justify a dictatorship would be allayed.
It has been said that the Constitution needs amending, particularly economic provisions and those concerning the form of government.
Drilos said that in order to maintain the non-partisan nature of the process, “No person who is a member of the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Resolution shall be qualified as a candidate for election as delegate to the convention.”
“The common good would be best served if the review of, and proposals to amend or revise, the Constitution would be made through and by a constitutional convention whose delegates are to be elected by the people for such purpose,” said Drilon, who topped the 2016 senatorial elections.
His campaign for the presidency, Duterte had said that he favours a federal form of administration.