Constitution of the Philippines
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Constitution of the Philippines

The Constitution of the Philippines, popularly
known as the 1987 Constitution, is the constitution or the supreme law of the Republic of the
Philippines. It was enacted in 1987, during the administration of President Corazon C.
Aquino. Philippine constitutional law experts recognise
three other previous constitutions as having effectively governed the country — the 1935
Commonwealth Constitution, the 1973 Constitution, and the 1986 Freedom Constitution. Two further
constitutions were drafted and adopted during two short-lived war-time governments, by the
revolutionary forces during the Philippine Revolution with Emilio Aguinaldo as President
and by the occupation forces during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during World
War II with José P. Laurel as President. Background of the 1987 Constitution
In 1986, following the People Power Revolution which ousted Ferdinand E. Marcos as President,
and following on her own inauguration, Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation 3, declaring
a national policy to implement the reforms mandated by the people, protecting their basic
rights, adopting a provisional constitution, and providing for an orderly transition to
a government under a new constitution. President Aquino later issued Proclamation № 9, creating
a Constitutional Commission to frame a new charter to supersede the Marcos-era 1973 Constitution.
Aquino appointed 50 members to the Commission. The members of the Commission were drawn from
varied backgrounds, including several former congressmen, former Supreme Court Chief Justice
Roberto Concepción, Roman Catholic bishop Teodoro Bacani, and film director Lino Brocka.
Aquino also deliberately appointed five members, including former Labour Minister Blas Ople,
who had been allied with Marcos until the latter’s ouster. After the Commission had
convened, it elected Cecilia Muñoz-Palma as its president. Muñoz-Palma had emerged
as a leading figure in the anti-Marcos opposition movement following her retirement as the first
female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Commission finished the draft charter
within four months after convening. Several issues were heatedly debated during the sessions,
including on the form of government to adopt, the abolition of the death penalty, the continued
retention of the Clark and Subic American military bases, and the integration of economic
policies into the Constitution. Brocka would walk out of the Commission before its completion,
and two other delegates would dissent from the final draft. The ConCom completed their
task on October 12, 1986 and presented the draft constitution to President Aquino on
October 15, 1986. After a nationwide information campaign, a plebiscite for its ratification
was held on February 2, 1987. More than three-fourths of all votes cast, or 76.37% favoured ratification
versus 22.65% who voted against it. On February 11, 1987, the new Constitution was proclaimed,
ratified and made effective, with Aquino, her government, and the Services pledging
allegiance to the It later that day. Parts of the 1987 Constitution
The Constitution is divided into 18 parts which are called Articles.
Article I – National Territory Article II – Declaration of Principles and
State Policies Article III – Bill of Rights
Article IV – Citizenship Article V – Suffrage
Article VI – Legislative Department Article VII – Executive Department
Article VIII – Judicial Department Article IX – Constitutional Commission
Article X – Local Government Article XI – Accountability of Public Officers
Article XII – National Economy and Patrimony Article XIII – Social Justice and Human Rights
Article XIV – Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports
Article XV – The Family Article XVI – General Provisions
Article XVII – Amendments or Revisions Article XVIII – Transitory Provisions
Preamble of the 1987 Constitution The Preamble reads:
Significant features of the 1987 Constitution The Constitution establishes the Philippines
as a “democratic and republican State”, where “sovereignty resides in the people and all
government authority emanates from them”. Consistent with the doctrine of separation
of powers, the powers of the national government are exercised in main by three branches — the
legislative branch composed of Congress, the executive branch headed by the President,
and the judicial branch with the Supreme Court occupying the highest tier of the judiciary.
The President and the members of Congress are directly elected by the people, while
the members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President from a list formed by the
Judicial and Bar Council. As with the American system of government, it is Congress which
enacts the laws, subject to the veto power of the President which may nonetheless be
overturned by a two-thirds vote of Congress, Article VI). The President has the constitutional
duty to ensure the faithful execution of the laws, while the courts are expressly granted
the power of judicial review, including the power to nullify or interpret laws. The President
is also recognized as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The Constitution also establishes limited political autonomy to the local government
units that act as the municipal governments for provinces, cities, municipalities, and
barangays. Local governments are generally considered as falling under the executive
branch, yet local legislation requires enactment by duly elected local legislative bodies.
The Constitution mandated that the Congress would enact a Local Government Code. The Congress
duly enacted Republic Act No. 7160, The Local Government Code of 1991, which became effective
on January 1, 1992. The Supreme Court has noted that the Bill of Rights “occupies a
position of primacy in the fundamental law”. The Bill of Rights, contained in Article III,
enumerates the specific protections against State power. Many of these guarantees are
similar to those provided in the American constitution and other democratic constitutions,
including the due process and equal protection clause, the right against unwarranted searches
and seizures, the right to free speech and the free exercise of religion, the right against
self-incrimination, and the right to habeas corpus. The scope and limitations to these
rights have largely been determined by Philippine Supreme Court decisions.
Outside of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution also contains several other provisions enumerating
various state policies including, i.e., the affirmation of labor “as a primary social
economic force”; the equal protection of “the life of the mother and the life of the unborn
from conception”; the “Filipino family as the foundation of the nation”; the recognition
of Filipino as “the national language of the Philippines”, and even a requirement that
“all educational institutions shall undertake regular sports activities throughout the country
in cooperation with athletic clubs and other sectors.” Whether these provisions may, by
themselves, be the source of enforceable rights without accompanying legislation has been
the subject of considerable debate in the legal sphere and within the Supreme Court.
The Court, for example, has ruled that a provision requiring that the State “guarantee equal
access to opportunities to public service” could not be enforced without accompanying
legislation, and thus could not bar the disallowance of so-called “nuisance candidates” in presidential
elections. But in another case, the Court held that a provision requiring that the State
“protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology” did not
require implementing legislation to become the source of operative rights.
Historical constitutions Constitution of Biak-na-Bato The Katipunan revolution led to the Tejeros
Convention where, at San Francisco de Malabón, Cavite, on March 22, 1897, the first presidential
and vice presidential elections in Philippine history were held—although only the Katipuneros
were able to take part, and not the general populace. A later meeting of the revolutionary
government established there, held on November 1, 1897 at Biak-na-Bato in the town of San
Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacán, established the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. The republic
had a constitution drafted by Isabelo Artacho and Félix Ferrer and based on the first Cuban
Constitution. It is known as the “Constitución Provisional de la República de Filipinas”,
and was originally written in and promulgated in the Spanish and Tagalog languages.
Malolos Constitution The Malolos Constitution was the first republican
constitution in Asia. It declared that sovereignty resides exclusively in the people, stated
basic civil rights, separated the church and state, and called for the creation of an Assembly
of Representatives to act as the legislative body. It also called for a parliamentary republic
as the form of government. The president was elected for a term of four years by a majority
of the Assembly. It was titled “Constitución política”, and was written in Spanish following
the declaration of independence from Spain, proclaimed on January 20, 1899, and was enacted
and ratified by the Malolos Congress, a Congress held in Malolos, Bulacan.
The Preamble reads: (We, the Representatives of the Filipino people,
lawfully convened in order to establish justice, provide for common defence, promote the general
welfare, and insure the benefits of liberty, imploring the aid of the Sovereign Legislator
of the Universe for the attainment of these ends, have voted, decreed, and sanctioned
the following) Acts of the United States Congress
The Philippines was a United States Territory from December 10, 1898 to March 24, 1934 and
therefore under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of the United States. Two acts
of the United States Congress passed during this period can be considered Philippine constitutions
in that those acts defined the fundamental political principles and established the structure,
procedures, powers and duties of the Philippine government.
Philippine Organic Act of 1902 The Philippine Organic Act of 1902, sometimes
known as the “Philippine Bill of 1902”, was the first organic law for the Philippine Islands
enacted by the United States Congress. It provided for the creation of a popularly elected
Philippine Assembly, and specified that legislative power would be vested in a bicameral legislature
composed of the Philippine Commission and the Philippine Assembly. Its key provisions
included a bill of rights for the Filipinos and the appointment of two non-voting Filipino
Resident Commissioner of the Philippines to represent the Philippines in the United States
House of Representatives. Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916
The Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, sometimes known as “Jones Law”, modified the structure
of the Philippine government by removing the Philippine Commission as the legislative upper
house and replacing it with a Senate elected by Filipino voters, creating the Philippines’
first fully elected national legislature. This act also explicitly stated that it was
and had always been the purpose of the people of the United States to end their sovereignty
over the Philippine Islands and to recognise Philippine independence as soon as a stable
government can be established therein. Tydings–McDuffie Act
Though not a constitution itself, the Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934 provided authority and defined
mechanisms for the establishment of a formal constitution via a constitutional convention.
Commonwealth and Third Republic The 1935 Constitution was written in 1934,
approved and adopted by the Commonwealth of the Philippines and later used by the Third
Republic. It was written with an eye to meeting the approval of the United States Government
as well, so as to ensure that the U.S. would live up to its promise to grant the Philippines
independence and not have a premise to hold onto its possession on the grounds that it
was too politically immature and hence unready for full, real independence.
The Preamble reads: The original 1935 Constitution provided for
unicameral National Assembly and the President was elected to a six-year term without re-election.
It was amended in 1940 to have a bicameral Congress composed of a Senate and House of
Representatives, as well the creation of an independent electoral commission. The Constitution
now granted the President a four-year term with a maximum of two consecutive terms in
office. A Constitutional Convention was held in 1971
to rewrite the 1935 Constitution. The convention was stained with manifest bribery and corruption.
Possibly the most controversial issue was removing the presidential term limit so that
Ferdinand E. Marcos could seek election for a third term, which many felt was the true
reason for which the convention was called. In any case, the 1935 Constitution was suspended
in 1972 with Marcos’ proclamation of martial law, the rampant corruption of the constitutional
process providing him with one of his major premises for doing so.
Second Republic The 1943 Constitution was drafted by a committee
appointed by the Philippine Executive Commission, the body established by the Japanese to administer
the Philippines in lieu of the Commonwealth of the Philippines which had established a
government-in-exile. In mid-1942 Japanese Premier Hideki Tōjō had promised the Filipinos
“the honor of independence” which meant that the commission would be supplanted by a formal
republic. The Preparatory Committee for Philippine Independence
tasked with drafting a new constitution was composed in large part, of members of the
prewar National Assembly and of individuals with experience as delegates to the convention
that had drafted the 1935 Constitution. Their draft for the republic to be established under
the Japanese Occupation, however, would be limited in duration, provide for indirect,
instead of direct, legislative elections, and an even stronger executive branch.
Upon approval of the draft by the Committee, the new charter was ratified in 1943 by an
assembly of appointed, provincial representatives of the Kalibapi, the organization established
by the Japanese to supplant all previous political parties. Upon ratification by the Kalibapi
assembly, the Second Republic was formally proclaimed. José P. Laurel was appointed
as President by the National Assembly and inaugurated into office in October 1943. Laurel
was highly regarded by the Japanese for having openly criticised the US for the way they
ran the Philippines, and because he had a degree from Tokyo International University.
The 1943 Constitution remained in force in Japanese-controlled areas of the Philippines,
but was never recognized as legitimate or binding by the governments of the United States
or of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and guerrilla organizations loyal to them.
In late 1944, President Laurel declared a state of war existed with the United States
and the British Empire and proclaimed martial law, essentially ruling by decree. His government
in turn went into exile in December 1944, first to Taiwan and then Japan. After the
announcement of Japan’s surrender, Laurel formally proclaimed the Second Republic as
dissolved. Until the 1960s, the Second Republic, and
its officers, were not viewed as legitimate or as having any standing, with the exception
of the Supreme Court, whose decisions, limited to reviews of criminal and commercial cases
as part of a policy of discretion by Chief Justice José Yulo continued to be part of
the official records. It was only during the Macapagal administration that a partial political
rehabilitation of the Japanese-era republic took place, with the official recognition
of Laurel as a former president and the addition of his cabinet and other officials to the
roster of past government officials. However, the 1943 charter was not taught in schools
and the laws of the 1943-44 National Assembly never recognized as valid or relevant.
The Preamble reads: The 1943 Constitution provided strong executive
powers. The Legislature consisted of a unicameral National Assembly and only those considered
to be anti-US could stand for election, although in practice most legislators were appointed
rather than elected. The New Society and the Fourth Republic
The 1973 Constitution, promulgated after Marcos’ declaration of martial law, but having been
in the planning process for years before this, was supposed to introduce a parliamentary-style
government. Legislative power was vested in a unicameral National Assembly whose members
were elected for six-year terms. The President was ideally elected as the symbolic and purely
ceremonial head of state chosen from amongst the Members of the National Assembly for a
six-year term and could be re-elected to an unlimited number of terms. Upon election,
the President ceased to be a Member of the National Assembly. During his term, the President
was not allowed to be a member of a political party or hold any other office.
Executive power was meant to be exercised by the Prime Minister who was also elected
from amongst the sitting Assemblymen. The Prime Minister was to be the head of government
and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This constitution was subsequently amended
four times. From 16-17 October 1976, a majority of barangay
voters approved that martial law should be continued and ratified the amendments to the
Constitution proposed by President Marcos. The 1976 amendments were:
an Interim Batasang Pambansa substituting for the Interim National Assembly;
the President would also become the Prime Minister and he would continue to exercise
legislative powers until such time as martial law was lifted.
The Sixth Amendment authorised the President to legislate on his own on an “emergency”
basis: Whenever in the judgement of the President
there exists a grave emergency or a threat or imminence thereof, or whenever the Interim
Batasang Pambansa or the regular National Assembly fails or is unable to act adequately
on any matter for any reason that in his judgment requires immediate action, he may, in order
to meet the exigency, issue the necessary decrees, orders or letters of instructions,
which shall form part of the law of the land. The 1973 Constitution was further amended
in 1980 and 1981. In the 1980 amendment, the retirement age of the members of the judiciary
was extended to 70 years. In the 1981 amendments, the false parliamentary system was formally
modified into a French-style semi-presidential system:
executive power was restored to the President; direct election of the President was restored;
an Executive Committee composed of the Prime Minister and not more than 14 members was
created to “assist the President in the exercise of his powers and functions and in the performance
of his duties as he may prescribe;” and the Prime Minister was a mere head of the Cabinet.
Further, the amendments instituted electoral reforms and provided that a natural born citizen
of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land for use
by him as his residence. The last amendments in 1984 abolished the
Executive Committee and restored the position of Vice-President.
While the 1973 Constitution ideally provided for a true parliamentary system, in practise,
Marcos had made use of subterfuge and manipulation in order to keep executive powers for himself,
rather than devolving these to the Assembly and the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.
The end result was that the final form of the 1973 Constitution – after all amendments
and subtle manipulations – was merely the abolition of the Senate and a series of cosmetic
rewordings. The old American-derived terminology was replaced by terms more associated with
parliamentary government: for example, the House of Representatives became known as the
“Batasang Pambansà”, Departments were called “Ministries”, and their cabinet secretaries
became known as “cabinet ministers”, with the President’s assistant – the Executive
Secretary – now being styled the “Prime Minister”, so that Marcos’ purported parliamentary
system functioned as an authoritaritan presidential system, with all real power concentrated in
the hands of the President but with the premise that such was now constitutional.
“Freedom Constitution” Immediately following the 1986 People Power
Revolution that ousted Marcos, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation № 3 as a provisional
constitution. It adopted certain provisions from the 1973 Constitution while abolishing
others. It granted the President broad powers to reorganise government and remove officials,
as well as mandating the President to appoint a commission to draft a new, more formal Constitution.
This document, described above, supplanted the “Freedom Constitution” upon its ratification
in 1987. See also
Constitutional economics Constitutionalism
Charter Change References Bibliography
Cruz, Isagani. “The Nature of the Constitution”. Constitutional Law. Philippines: Central Lawbook
Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 18–20. ISBN 971-16-0333-0.  External links
A collection of Philippine Constitutions Biak-na-Bato Constitution
Biak-na-Bato Constitution Spanish version Biak-na-Bato Constitution Tagalog version
The 1899 Malolos Constitution Philippine Organic Act
Philippine Autonomy Act The 1935 Constitution w/o Amendments
The 1935 Constitution The 1943 Constitution
The 1973 Constitution w/o Amendments The 1973 Constitution
The 1986 Freedom Constitution The 1987 Constitution
The Consultative Commission Evolution of Philippine Constitution


  • Sebia Mercuda


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