A STATEMENT ON THE PRESENT MANEUVERS OF CONGRESS TO AMEND THE 1987 CONSTITUTION
It is an obvious and grave abuse of power and discretion.
The Majority in the House of Representatives have amended our system of government by using a technicality. They have effectively destroyed the safeguard afforded by the Constitution to all Filipino people.
After several attempts to amend the Constitution have failed (i.e. Concon and Pirma) last Tuesday and Wednesday evening, December 5 and 6, the Lower House amended House Rule 105 Rule XV (Proposals to Amend or Revise the Constitution), removing the sentence “The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills.” The Lower House then passed House Resolution 1450: Calling for the Convening of Congress to Propose Amendments to, or Revision of, the Constitution Upon a Vote of Three-Fourths of All its Members, Pursuant to Section 1, Article XVII of the Constitution. The House Majority, through Cong. Villafuerte, admits that they will be proposing to postpone the May elections to November 2007. They want term limits to be removed too. Recently, in response to pressure from various sectors , they are now singing a different tune. They have set a 72-hour deadline for Senate to respond to an invitation for Constitutional Convention.
The Law Student Government of the University of the Philippines College of Law, is not against the idea of charter change per se. However, we are strongly against the timing, and motivations behind the present attempts to change our Constitution. We believe that now is not the time to amend the constitution. The fundamental law of our country should be amended in a deliberate manner, in an atmosphere of sobriety.
When the House Majority resorted to the brash and brazen manner of the amendment of Rule 105 of the House Rules and the passing of House Resolution 1450, it left the minority lost and confused. They construed Article XVII Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution to say that House of Representatives by itself can amend the Constitution – a forced interpretation which bastardizes the intent of the very Constitution they swore to uphold. The intent of the Constitutional framers have been made clear in both jurisprudence and practice – that ours is a bicameral system of government. The records show that the framers intended for both Houses “to vote separately”. Ratio legis et anima.
With the shift from Con-Ass to Con-con, however, the pressure exerted by the House Majority to amend the Constitution remains. Now, they are even calling on the CBCP to urge the Senate to join them in supporting Con-con. From a first Concon to Pirma to Con-Ass then to another Con-con, they are pursuing all means and methods available to amend the fundamental law of our land. Their desperation to amend the Constitution before the May 2007 elections has become even more apparent.
The timing of these maneuvers seriously casts doubt as to the intent of the proponents. With the May 2007 elections in sight, and with a great number of Congressmen nearing their term limits, this is obviously a ploy to perpetuate themselves in power. The process of amending the Constitution should be done with the interest of the Filipino people in mind – not with the interests of a few self-serving Congressmen. Furthermore, if the Charter Change were to push through, there would be an inevitable need for government funds. At this point in time, the government’s budget has already been allocated for the May 2007 elections. Re-allocation of such budget for the plebiscite as proposed by some Congressmen would amount to malversation of government funds. We condemn this clear intent to violate the law.
The LSG believes that the “Majority” in the House of Representatives is not the Majority of the Philippine Nation. We believe that there is a majority of critical-minded people able to recognize such despicable political maneuvers but who have just remained silent, and still another mass which has resorted to apathy.
We call on this majority to speak out. Together let us raise our voices in indignation & protest against the Chacha tactics of the House Majority. Let us not fall prey to the manipulations of the Administration congressmen.
We call on the minority Congressmen and the Senate to stand on their ground. We want to let them know that we are rallying behind them in their efforts to thwart the actions of other legislative leaders to perpetuate themselves into power.
We call on the Supreme Court to properly rule on the petitions asking for the proper interpretation of the Constitution. We beseech them to have in mind the intent of the framers to have a bicameral system of government in accordance with the system of checks and balances espoused by the Constitution. We implore the Supreme Court not to hide behind the political question doctrine or the doctrine of acquiescence as captured in Javellana v. Executive Secretary. We are against all this and we making our voices heard and let no one say otherwise.
We call on the students of the College of Law to study and inform ourselves about the present issue vis-à-vis the law as we have been taught, and the possible consequences of having ill-motivated Charter Change. Let us use our privileged position to discuss and share our knowledge with others. We can also help in the initiatives of our professors, who, as of the moment, are in the process of preparing petitions to the Supreme Court. And for those who wish to do so, we can let our voices be heard and participate in protest actions against the present move to amend our Constitution. Let us be at the forefront of these events which could shape the course of our Nation’s history.
Let us not get caught in the tragedy of being a law student who studies the law in a vacuum and remains in the dark in the midst of surrounding political turmoil. Let us grab this chance to learn the law not just inside Malcolm Hall but to learn it in spite of Malcolm Hall. This IS learning the law in the “Grand Manner”.
Christina Faye M. Condez
Lorybeth R. Baldrias
Faustina Victoria E. Ochoa
Hardy B. Aquende
Elgene Lawrence C. Feliciano
Public Relations Officer
Leandro Angelo Y. Aguirre