If it is true, as someone once said, that “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind,” that “as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and opinions change with the change in circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times,” does it follow that we’re on the right path in asking that our 1987 Constitution deserves nothing else but a total overhaul to “keep pace with the times”?
Don’t ask lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, that question. More than likely, he’ll tell you that our Constitution is not the problem, it’s part of the solution.
That‘s what he told the Senate committee on constitutional amendments that began discussions on the possibility of amending the charter.
According to Monsod, the country has “largely failed in human development” not due to the Constitution, but rather because “we haven’t implemented it,” particularly the provisions on social justice and human rights.
“This is the Constitution that is blamed as the source of our problems today… In other words, ‘our problems today can all be traced to the Constitution,’ I don’t think that is logical,’” Monsod said during the hearing.
“I would argue instead that we have largely failed in human development not because of the Constitution, but because we haven’t implemented it, especially its provisions on social justice and human rights and local autonomy.”
Monsod said that there are three central themes of the 1987 Constitution: social justice and human rights with the poor as the center of development, prohibiting the return of authoritarianism in any form, and prohibiting foreign domination of the country’s economy.
“The inspiration of the 1987 Constitution was EDSA. But EDSA was more than the restoration of democracy through peaceful means, it was also the promise, especially to the poor, of a new social order with radical changes because our present social order is rooted in a feudalistic system of dynasties that has been impervious to change for generations,” Monsod said.
That was quite a mouthful to tell lawmakers, especially since the current head of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, who used to be an onscreen action star, isn’t exactly a role model for a law-abiding citizen, let alone an exemplar for the Filipino youth.
Monsod, however, clarifies that he is not against any amendment to the document, but even supports amendments to it, such as bloc voting for a presidential and vice presidential tandem, removal of the quasi-judicial functions of the Commission on Elections, amendments to the Judicial Bar and Council, and additional protection for the archipelagic character of Philippine territory.
What is he saying? Let us amend the 1987 Constitution to make it responsive to the times, but first, let us implement its key provisions in the proper way, not by ignoring them and even outrightly violating them at every opportunity.
While it is also true, as a sage once said, that “each generation has the right to choose for itself the form of government it believes best promotes its own happiness,” Charter change should be the product of sound and sensible arguments, not spur-of-the-moment decisions unsupported by careful reading of public sentiment and long-term national interest.