The country should revert to the 1935 Constitution and elect 48 senators due to its expanded population, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile proposed Wednesday.
Enrile, also the former Senate President, said the 1935 Constitution was “brief, simple, and easy to understand.”
During the hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes on measures seeking to revise the 1987 Constitution, Enrile said the current charter made the provisions from the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions complicated.
“Now, if you will ask me what we should do, I believe there are many things. First, my proposal is we go back, that is my preference, I’m not binding anybody, go back to the 1935 Constitution or at the very least if we want to change it immediately, go to the 1973 Constitution,” he said.
Enrile also suggested doubling the current number of senators from 24 due to the country’s growing population.
“If we are going to change the number of senators at the present time, to be in tune with the number of the expanded population of the country (because) at the time of the adoption of the 1935 Constitution we were only 12 million people,” the former justice and defense minister added.
“Now, we are more than 100 million people and if we are going to increase the number of senators, I would suggest that we double the present number (24) to 48,” he said.
“With that 48, 16 would go out every two years to be elected by the people, so that new, fresh, and modernized minds will enter the system to contribute to the intellectual capability or academic capability of the remaining members,” he added.
Enrile said the 1935 Constitution established the number of senators at 24, but the 1987 Constitution decreed that half of the Senate will be elected every six years.
“That’s a delicate topic. They did not understand why under the 1935 Constitution the wise men of the Philippines… they made it 24 (Senate seats), but every two years exposed to the mandate of the people, eight of these 24 people and the 16 will remain standing all the time was embedded in the Constitution,” he said.
“The purpose of changing eight (senators) every two years was to be sure that two-thirds of all the senators must be in place at any given time without any interregnum,” Enrile added.
This was so that in case of danger, war, invasion, or rebellion “like what happened to us, or any kind of emergency, epidemic, pandemic, there must always be 16 senators that can be relied upon to maintain the government of the Republic of the Philippines, not for their sake but for the sake of the Filipino people, for their safety and security,” the presidential counsel added.
Enrile said he also agrees to reinstate the phrase “imminent danger” in the martial law provision of the Constitution, as this would enable the government to respond to any looming war, rebellion, or insurrection.
“They (past constitutional bodies) messed up the martial law provision. When we declared martial law, it was simple. The Supreme Court cannot interfere. Nobody can interfere, the power of the president was absolute,” said the defense minister of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.