The Peoples Initiative, product of devious mind

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

This article is going to be a different tack, organization wise, from previous write ups. Here, I will go straight to visit the thoughts of eminent constitutional law scholars. The first is Vicente Sinco. In his 1962 book on Philippine Political Law, he wrote: “A constitutional convention, when lawfully convened, derives its power from the people; that the powers of a convention are in the nature of sovereign powers.” Legal scholars call this position of a constitutional convention as the Theory of Conventional Sovereignty. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, once perceived to be loyal to Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, said in his 1974 treatise on the Philippine Constitution: “A constitutional convention, is free to deliberate on any subject. It is free to recommend anything (to the people).” 140

Speaking on the powers of a constituent assembly, constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, in the 2009 edition of his book The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, wrote that “since the effectivity of a proposal made by a constituent assembly depends upon the approval by the sovereign people, a constituent assembly may propose ANY CHANGE in the constitution” (bold and capital mine).

Whatever Sinco and Fernando wrote on the power of a constitutional convention, if it is validly called and convened, may also be said of the power of a constituent assembly, when also validly called and convened. The laws calling for and convening the Con-Con or Con-Ass determine what kind of amendments may these bodies propose. This is what Bernas had in mind when he wrote in his commentary which became a text book of law students. Therefore, it is an accepted constitutional law principle that unless the law calling for and convening a constitutional convention or constituent assembly specifically directs what provision or provisions of the present constitution maybe amended, the con-con or con-ass may propose any change.

I had to refer to the works of these authorities on constitutional law because of the recent reports about a peoples’ initiative and days later of a projected constitutional assembly. Our fundamental law allows a revision or amendment by way of firstly, a constitutional convention, or secondly, a constituent assembly or thirdly, peoples’ initiative. Last week, I was shocked when television news reported that there was an organized effort to get the signatures of our countrymen to a paper. I have not seen the documents myself but there were clear accounts of people signing some papers after being promised many things (such as Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation or being included in Tapat) a clear fraud committed by the signature solicitors.

Yes, there was P100 paid to those who signed, a matter/of-fact bribery. Filtered news did not report clearly if there were specific proposals to amend specific provisions of the constitution such that the supposed signatures, when verified and validated, could be presented as peoples’ initiative. Subsequent reports suggested that the supposed PI was organized by Congress and so by such set up, it was never a Peoples initiative.

I heard also that the papers contained a provision that when any amendment is proposed by way of a con-ass, both legislative houses should vote jointly, not separately. This meant that the constitutionally required 3/4 qualified majority votes would be taken from the mixed numbers of senators and congressmen and not 3/4 of 24 senators and 3/4 of 316 representatives. There is a whale of a difference when the 3/4 is taken from 340. Whoever engineered that idea is a selfish and evil soul.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with