Blog Lecture No. 26: Constitutional Amendments

Let’s now deal with how the Constitution deals with its own demise or on a lesser level, allows for amendments.

Constitutional Law is fluid in the sense that it allows a procedure for amendments or even an entirely new constitution altogether. The relevant provisions of the 1987 Constitution states:

ARTICLE XVII
Amendments or Revisions

SEC 1.
Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:
(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
(2) A constitutional convention.

SEC. 2.
Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.
The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.

SEC. 3.
The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

SEC. 4.
Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.
Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition.

What are the means of amending the Constitution (a charter change or fondly referred to as a “cha-cha”)?

They are:

1. By constituent assembly (aptly called a “con-ass”);
2. By constitutional convention (called a “con-con”);
3. Direct initiative

What is the difference between a “con-ass” and a “con-con”?

A consitutuent assembly is composed of the existing congress that, as a body, can directly propose constitutional amendments.

On the other hand, a constitutional convention is an entirely different body elected and formed specifically for the purpose of amending the existing constitution and/or drafting a completely new one.

Hence, the most economical way of constitutional amendment is by constituent assembly because we do not have to go through an additional electoral process just to form a convention.

How can a constituent assembly propose amendments to the Constitution?

A vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all its members shall be enough. Please note that this covers “all the members” and not both houses voting separately. In this case both senators and congressmen have one vote each and each house cannot veto each other.

How about a “con-con”?

First, congress has to vote to convene a “con-con.” A vote of two-thirds (2/3) of, again, all its members will be enough.

A majority of members, however, can vote to submit the question of having a “con-con” to the electorate. Hence, under this path, there will be three plebicites/elections: one to convene the “con-con,” the second to elect the members and the third to ratify the proposed amendments/completely new constitution. That would be very costly. But in my opinion, I think the first two questions (to covene and elect “con-con” members) could be tackled in one election to save money.

What about direct initiative?

This is a method where the people directly proposes amendments. The requirement here is at least 12% of the registered voters, with all legislative districts are represented by at least 3% each.

Congress, unfortunately, has to enact legislation to implement this direct right. I thought that was covered by the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) but it only covers local ordinances. As of this moment, there is no law to enable this right (unless I am mistaken, please just correct me if I’m wrong).

What follows after proposed amendments/proposed new constitution?

These amendments, etc. must be ratified by a majority of voters in a plebicite called for such purpose.

Any last advice?

Clean up the COMELEC first before proceeding…

Also, with the far reaching changes being proposed, I think it is best to just revise the whole darn thing instead of just amending it…

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