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Monday, February 26, 2024

The delicate dance of Constitutional amendment

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The future generations of Filipinos depend on the wisdom and prudence exercised today

In the unfolding drama of constitutional amendment in the Philippines, the recent divergence in approach between the Senate and the House of Representatives has drawn the scrutiny of legal minds and Constitutional scholars.

Former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza’s assertion that this process constitutes a Constituent Assembly, not the conventional legislative body, adds a layer of complexity to an already intricate matter.

Mendoza aptly distinguishes between the roles of Congress as a legislative body and as a Constituent Assembly, emphasizing that the amendment of the Constitution is a non-legislative function.

Drawing parallels to other instances where Congress acts in a similar capacity, such as confirming a vice president or revoking martial law, Mendoza compellingly argues the silence in Article 17 regarding how Congress should function as a Constituent Assembly indicates a distinct role.

Article 17 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, addressing Amendments or Revisions, provides a legal backdrop.

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Mendoza anchors his argument in the Supreme Court decisions on Tolentino vs. Comelec and Gonzalez vs. Comelec, underscoring the unity of members when acting as a Constituent Assembly.

This legal foundation strengthens the argument that the amendment process requires a unique approach, different from routine legislative activities.

However, the cautionary voices of retired Supreme Court justices in the public hearing on Resolution of Both Houses 6 warrant serious consideration.

Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.’s concern about compromising nationalism and patriotism in the pursuit of amendments raises a red flag.

He rightly points out that the Constitution mandates educational institutions to promote patriotism, love for history, and ethical values, suggesting that amendments should align with these foundational principles.

Davide’s broader critique extends to the economic realm, linking the lackluster growth to poor government management and failures in implementing the Constitution.

His warning against relaxing citizenship requirements in economic provisions echoes concerns about potential exploitation by lobbyists and foreign interests, transforming Congress into a market rather than a bastion of nationalistic ideals.

Justice Adolfo Azcuna’s nuanced perspective, favoring the removal of economic restrictions but through legislation or existing laws, adds another layer to the debate.

Azcuna’s historical context, highlighting these issues have persisted since 1935, underscores the need for comprehensive solutions that go beyond Constitutional amendments.

In light of these perspectives, it becomes clear that the constitutional amendment process requires meticulous consideration.

The delicate balance between preserving the integrity of the Constitution and addressing pressing issues demands a strategic and thoughtful approach.

Recommendations for the Filipino public emerge from this analysis.

First and foremost, there should be a collective commitment to preserving the principles embedded in the Constitution.

Any amendments must be in harmony with the Constitutional foundation, safeguarding nationalism, patriotism, and ethical values.

Furthermore, it is essential for legislators to engage in transparent and inclusive dialogue, seeking input from legal experts, scholars, and the public.

A thorough assessment of the potential consequences of amendments, particularly in economic provisions, must be conducted to ensure the long-term well-being of the nation.

The call for unity between the Senate and the House of Representatives as a Constituent Assembly, as advocated by Mendoza, should be complemented by a meticulous and principled approach to Constitutional amendments.

Balancing the need for reform with the imperative of preserving national values requires a collective effort that transcends political affiliations.

The future generations of Filipinos depend on the wisdom and prudence exercised today.

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