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Lesson 3 Understanding the Fundamental Law

Learning Objectives:

When you finish this lesson, you will be able to do the following:

1. Define constitution
2. Identify the different types of constitution
3. Determine the origin and sources of the Philippine constitution
4. Discuss the characteristics of a good written constitution
5. Describe the 1987 Philippine Constitution and its parts

Keywords and Phrases:

Tydings-McDuffie Law Cooper Act Jones Law

Constitution Conventional constitution rigid constitution

Cummulative constitution


A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents

according to which a state or other organization is governed.] These rules
together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is. When these principles are
written down into a single collection or set of legal documents, those documents
may be said to comprise a written constitution.
Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign states to
companies and unincorporated associations. A treaty which establishes
an international organization is also its constitution in that it would define how that
organization is constituted. Within states, whether sovereign or federated, a
constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure
in which laws are made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially written
constitutions, also act as limiters of state power by establishing lines which a
state's rulers cannot cross such as fundamental rights.

Constitution defined
That body of rules and maxims in accordance with which the powers of
sovereignty are habitually exercised (Cooley, Constitutional Limitations).
Classified according to (1) origin and history (2) form and (3) manner of

1. Enacted (conventional) or evolved (cumulative):

A conventional constitution is an enacted constitution, formally struck off at a
definite time and place following a conscious or deliberate effort taken by a
constituent body or ruler while an evolved constitution is the result of political
evolution, not inaugurated at any specific time but changing by accretion
rather than by any systematic method (Cruz, Constitutional Law)

2. Written or unwritten
A written constitution is embodied in one document or set of documents
while an unwritten constitution consists of rules which have not been
integrated into a single, concrete form but are scattered in various sources
(Cruz, Constitutional Law)

3. Rigid or flexible
A rigid constitution is one that can be amended only by a formal and usually
difficult process while a flexible constitution can be changed by ordinary
legislation (Cruz, Constitutional Law)
Constitution of the Philippines defined
That written instrument enacted by direct action of the people by which the
fundamental powers of the government are established, limited and defined,
and by which those powers are distributed among the several departments
for their safe and useful exercise for the benefit of the body politic (Malcolm,
Philippine Constitutional Law).
The 1987 Philippine Constitution may be classified as conventional or
enacted, written and rigid or inelastic.

Qualities of a Good Written Constitution

A good written constitution must be (1) brief, (2) broad and (3) definite.

It must focus on basic principles leaving details for the legislature to supply.

It must be comprehensive to provide for the organization of the entire
government, cover all persons and things within the territory of the State. It
must also cover any future contingencies.

It must prevent any vagueness or ambiguity in its provisions which may cause
incalculable harm.


Malolos Constitution
The Malolos Constitution was adopted by the Revolutionary Congress, held
during October and November 1898 in the village of Barasoain near the city
of Malolos. It took effect on Jan. 21, 1899. The constitution assigned to the
legislative body, a unicameral national assembly, full control over the
executive power (a president elected by the national assembly) and the
judicial system. The constitution provided for universal and direct elections,
the separation of church and state, compulsory and free education, and equal
legal status for the languages of all the Philippine nationalities. It precisely
delimited the rights of citizens. (Guber, 1961)

Organic Acts
Philippine Bill of 1902 created a bicameral legislature composed of the
Philippine Assembly and the Philippine Commission

Jones Law Otherwise known as the Philippine Autonomy Act which

authorized the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines

Tydings-Mcduffie Act Also referred as the Philippine Independence Act

authorized the drafting of a Constitution for the Philippines, the establishment
of a Commonwealth Government and, after 10 years, independence.
(Nachura, Outline/Reviewer in Political Law)

1935 Constitution
The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines served as the fundamental law of
the land from 1935 to 1972. It establishes the Commonwealth of the
Philippines and provides that upon withdrawal of American sovereignty in the
country and the declaration of Philippine independence, said commonwealth
shall be known as the Republic of the Philippines. The Constitution
enumerates the composition, powers and duties of the three branches of
government (the Executive, Legislative and Judicial), creates the General
Auditing Office, and lays down the framework in the establishment of the civil
service in the country. The Constitution vests the President with the veto
power on legislative bills and emergency powers in times of war and other
national emergencies. Also, the Constitution adopts the Regalian Doctrine or
the Principle of State ownership for all its natural wealth and provides for the
proper utilization of such wealth by its citizens. (Javier and Nera,

1973 Constitution
The 1973 Constitution as amended, consists of a preamble and 17 articles,
contains three essential parts: Part I) constitution on liberty in Articles II, III,
IV, and VI; Part 2) constitution on government, which contains provisions on
the organization and powers of the government (Arts. VII to XII); and Part 3)
the constitution on sovereignty, which enumerates the manner by which
changes in the constitution may be instituted (Art. XVI). The Constitution
provides for a [seemingly] parliamentary form of government, where the
President is the symbolic head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of
government. The Prime Minister, who is nominated by the President, acts as
head of the Cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the Batasang Pambansa.
It also provides for the establishment of the Civil Service Commission, the
Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.
On 22 September 1976, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree
No. 1033 which proposed certain amendments to the 1973 Constitution.
These proposals were later ratified and included in the 1973 Constitution.
The amendments provide for the replacement of the National Assembly with
the Batasang Pambansa; it also states that the incumbent President of the
Philippines shall be the Prime Minister, and shall continue to exercise both
executive and legislative powers until Martial Law is lifted. (Vera,

1987 Constitution
Pres. Corazon C. Aquino through Proclamation No. 9, issued on 23 April
1986, orders the convening of a Constitutional Commission to draft a
constitution that will replace the 1973 Constitution. The members of the
Constitutional Commission (ConCom) were appointed on 26 May 1986 and
on 2 June, the ConCom, headed by Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, commenced its
sessions at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. The ConCom
completed their task on 12 October 1986 and presented the draft constitution
to Pres. Aquino on October 15. After a period of nationwide information
campaign, a plebiscite for its ratification was held on 2 February 1987. An
overwhelming 17,059,495 voted to ratify the constitution while 5,058,714
voted against it. On 11 February 1987, the New Constitution was proclaimed
ratified and in effect. On that same day, President Aquino, the other
government officials, and the military pledged allegiance to the New
Constitution. (Javier, Filipiniana.net)

Changing the Constitution

Changes in the constitution can be classified as (1) amendment or (2)

Amendment refers to a change that adds, reduces, deletes, without altering

the basic principles involved. It affects only the specific provision being
amended. (Lambino v. COMELEC, 25 October 2006)

Revision implies change that alters a basic principle or substantial entirety

of the Constitution. It affects several provisions in the Constitution. (Lambino
v. COMELEC, 25 October 2006)

Steps in the amendatory process include (1) proposal and (2) ratification.

1. Proposal (Section 1-3, Article XVII): The adoption of the suggested

change in the constitution. A proposed amendment may come from:

a. Constituent Assembly: Congress by a vote of ¾ of all its members

b. Constitutional Convention: may be called into existence by 2/3
vote of all the members of Congress or, by the people in a
plebiscite (Section 3, Article XVII)
c. People’s Initiative: requires a petition of at least 12% of the total
number of registered voters with each legislative district
represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein.

Limitations: No amendment in this manner shall be authorized within five

years following the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution nor more
often than once every five years thereafter. People initiative applies only
to an amendment and not a revision of the Constitution.
2. Ratification: Proposed amendment shall become part of the Constitution
if ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite held not earlier than
60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of the proposal by
Congress or the Constitutional Convention, or after the certification by the
Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition for initiative
under Section 2, Article XVII (Section 4, Article XVII)

Essential Parts of a Good Written Constitution

A good written constitution should contain at least 3 sets of provisions namely
(1) constitution of government (2) constitution of liberty and (3) constitution
of sovereignty.

Constitution of Government
provisions dealing with the framework of the government, enumerating its
powers, laying down certain rules relative to its administration and defining
the electorate (Example: Article VI, VII, VII and XI etc.)
Constitution of Liberty
prescriptions setting forth the fundamental rights of the people and limiting
the powers of the government as a means of securing the enjoyment of these
rights. (Example: Article III etc.)
Constitution of Sovereignty
series of provisions pointing out the mode or procedure for amending or
revising the constitution (Example: Article XVII etc.
1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a written, conventional and
inelastic constitution

Advantages of a written constitution:

 The written constitution is very clear and precise. It is free from doubts and
 The written constitution lays emphasis on rule of law.
 The written constitution is indispensable to federalism. It properly
distributes powers between the centre and federal units - states or
 The written constitution protects the fundamental rights of the individual,
fundamental rights are very essential for the liberty of the individual, and
rights are part of a written constitution. It will be unconstitutional to deprive
individual of any of these rights.
 The written constitution protects the interests of minorities.
 As a written constitution is clear, the ruler (government) cannot exercise
powers arbitrarily. A written constitution prevents arbitrary and whimsical

Disadvantages of Written constitution:

 A written constitution cannot easily cope with the changes taking place in
c: of time. With the passage of time changes take place in the condition of
a country. The constitution needs revision or modification to deal with such
changes, a written constitution, being rigid, is not easily amenable to
necessary modification or revision.
 When a written constitution fails to cope with the march of time and
consequent changes in the condition of the country, the people, being
angry, may revolt against the government.
 As a written constitution gives more importance to written laws, the
importance of public opinion decreases.
 In a country with a written constitution, customs, traditions and
conventions their value.
Advantages of Conventional Constitution:

 Systematic method
 Democratic Method
Disadvantages of Conventional Constitution:

 Once called, it becomes its own authority and cannot be limited,

 It can become a “runaway” convention in which our current form of
government and its constitutional protections are completely thrown out
and a new form of government is created,
 Given the current caliber of our representatives, our delegates cannot be
expected to have the knowledge, understanding or commitment to limited
governance, liberty and freedom shared by the original drafters of our
 The public’s lack of education on the Constitution and its virtues has led
to increased government dependence that are mitigating factors in favor
of bigger government.
Advantages of Inelastic Constitution:

 The government cannot change rulings/provisions according to its

 It is stable in nature
 Limited possibility of conflict between the government
 The fundamental rights of the citizens are well-written
Disadvantages of Inelastic Constitution:

 The conditions of society are constantly changing

 Gives to much power on the judiciary to decide on the validity of laws

2. Give other examples of constitutional provisions on government, sovereignty

and liberty
Philippine Constitution, Article IX, Section 1 (2)

"The Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President with the
consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without
reappointment. Of those first appointed, the Chairman shall hold office for seven years,
one Commissioner for five years, and the other Commissioner for three years, without
reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of
the term of the predecessor. In no case shall any Member be appointed or designated
in a temporary or acting capacity."

3. Provide examples of revisions and amendments to the 1987 Philippine


In RBH 8, the phrase "more perfect society" would be replacing "a just and
humane society." The new phrase is similar to that of the United States Constitution,
where "more perfect Union" is used.

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a
more perfect society and establish a federal form of Government that shall embody our
ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our
patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and
democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality,
and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution of the Federal Republic of the
We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a
just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and
aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and
secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy
under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace,
do ordain and promulgate this Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines.
House subcommittee
 The word "love" is removed, "because it has no place in a Constitution."
 "Federal Republic of the Philippines" is used.
 The phrase "competent and reliable federal form of Government" is inserted.

4. Defend any mode of changing the constitution and discuss its necessity,
beneficiality and practicability

The 1987 Constitution (Article XVII) provides for three modes of changing the

 Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its Members (Congress acting as

a Constituent Assembly, fondly called “Con-Ass”).
 A constitutional convention (fondly called “ConCon”).
 People’s initiative.
The transition from the 1973 Constitution to the 1987 Constitution was “extra-
constitutional” in nature.

The country that we live in is changing in a fast pace and it should be revised according
to what the society needs. More people would show support to the government if they
can see how understanding they are to the citizens.