- In the Philippines where I've been living here for the past 75 years, to this day, I DO NOT KNOW WHO THE FRAMERS OF PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTIONS ARE, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING, WHY THEY FRAMED THE CONSTITUTION THE WAY IT IS WRITTEN. . .
Well I sure cannot, for sure. 1987 was a nondescript year. I tried to recall what happened that year and came up empty. Well, I was in America, so I was irrelevant myself. In the Philippines, it was one year after Cory Aquino replaced Ferdinand Marcos. It was an important year.
I suppose that episode was a little like America throwing the British out. The Free Philippines threw the Totalitarian Philippines out.
Well, tried to. It wasn't quite as clean a break as found in America, where the Brits retreated to England. The totalitarians in the Philippines ran for senate. And won. One of them is the Senate President, still a rebel hot-head after all these years.
Thomas Jefferson had a strong hand in writing the American Constitution but other "Founding Fathers" were also instrumental in defining the values and laws under which America would stand free and democratic.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution is actually the sixth Constitution the Philippines has had since it adopted democratic principles after its independence from Spanish rule:
- 1898 The Republic under Aquinaldo
- 1935 The Commonwealth Constitution under the US
- 1946 Post WW II; the Laurel Constitution
- 1973 The Marcos Constitution
- 1986 Freedom Constitution (transition)
- 1987 Current Constitution
I did have to google and wiki to discover just what happened in the Philippines in 1986.
Ferdinand Marcos was ousted and President Cory Aquino issued a proclamation that introduced a transitional "Freedom Constitution" aimed at holding things together during the writing of the permanent Constitution.
Ms. Aquino was one of the "Founding Mothers" of the current Constitution.
President Aquino's proclamation formed a Constitution Commission of 50 people responsible for drafting the permanent Constitution. It was a hodgepodge of notables from different disciplines, including congressmen, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, Catholic Bishop Teodoro Bacani and film director Lino Brocka. The Commission included five people from the former Marcos government including former Labor Minister Blas Ople.
The Commission elected as its president Cecilia Munoz-Palma who led opposition against Marcos after she retired as the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. While on the court, with Marcos in charge, she issued rulings challenging his ambitions. Later she backed President Estrada and opposed President Arroyo. She died in 2006 at the age of 92.
She is the second "Founding Mother". She organized the Constitution Commission.
The writing was contentious, with many heated debates and even walk-outs. Hot issues were the form of government, the death penalty, American presence at Clark/Subic, and economic principals (e.g., land ownership).
I can't imagine 50 people writing on one document. I'm sure they started with the U.S. Constitution and built their own framework, with much of the writing done by one or two members and staffers. They remain anonymous. No one raises them up, as do Americans, in appreciation of the wisdom and wordsmithing, particularly, of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Thomas Paine, three of whom became presidents.
If records do exist as to who did the main wordsmithing on the Philippine Constitution, I have not discovered them online.
The drafting was completed and approved by the Commission with two "No" votes. It was presented to the public for ratification in early 1987. It was approved by a vote of about 17 million "for" and 5 million "against".
MEMBERS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION
President: Cecilia Munoz Palma
Vice-President: Ambrosio B. Padilla
Floor Leader: Napoleon G. Rama
Assistant Floor Leaders: Ahmad Domocao Alonto, Jose D. Calderon
Members: Yusuf R. Abubakar, Felicitas S. Aquino, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Teodoro C. Bacani, Jose F. S. Bengzon, Jr., Ponciano L. Bennagen, Joaquin G. Bernas, Florangel Rosario Braid, Crispino M. de Castro, Jose C. Colayco, Roberto R. Concepcion, Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Vicente B. Foz, Edmundo G. Garcia, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Serafin V.C. Guingona, Alberto M. K. Jamir,Jose B. Laurel, Jr., Eulogio R. Lerum, Regalado E. Maambong, Christian S. Monsod, Teodulo C. Natividad, Ma. Teresa F. Nieva, Jose N. Nolledo, Blas F. Ople, Minda Luz M. Quesada, Florenz D. Regalado, Rustico F. de los Reyes, Jr., Cirilo A. Rigos, Francisco A. Rodrigo, Ricardo J. Romulo, Decoroso R. Rosales, Rene V. Sarmiento, Jose E. Suarez, Lorenzo M. Sumulong, Jaime S. L. Tadeo, Christine O. Tan, Gregorio J. Tingson, Efrain B. Trenas, Lugum L. Uka,Wilfrido V. Villacorta, Bernardo M. Villegas
The entanglements from the list of Commissioners is interesting. Attorney Felicitas S. Aquino is the wife of Senator Joker Arroyo. Joker Arroyo was previously an attorney opposing Marcos and defending those accused of government of misdeeds. He was also counsel to Cory Aquino.
- "I think that it is now the time to return the power to the people; let us have faith in them. And by faith, I mean real and abiding faith, not just looking at the people as some kind of a mystical entity in whose name the eternal political in some of us have done themselves proud. In other words, let the Filipinos chart their own histories." Constitutional Commissioner Felitas S Aquino, 1986
Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., J.S.D. is a Jesuit and is Dean Emeritus of Ateneo Law School in Makati City, Philippines. He is a Constitutional law expert and burr in the Catholic saddles at times. You can read his blogs by going to The Blog Center.
Christian S. Monsod is former chairman of COMELEC.
You can research the others at your leisure.
Today we hear occasional calls for re-write of the Constitution. Some argue that federalism is more important for a diverse nation situated on different islands. Others argue for a parliamentary form of government to run the nation more as a business would run. Many argue the Philippines should liberalize its rules for foreign investment so foreign residents and businesses can fully own properties and businesses, injecting both cash and know-how into the economy.
JoeAm argues, what's the point of a new piece of paper when the disciplines to enforce laws are so weak? The courts are stuck up in the trade of favors and inefficiency. Case law is highly unreliable because the decisions are so weak and tainted with favoritism. Bodies like the Senate do not operate according to the highest ethical standards, freely plagiarizing speeches and revealing state secrets on negotiations with China. One can not quite TRUST the motives of anyone calling for a redraft of the Constitution.
President Arroyo pushed trust out the door.
Until the agents of governance are more disciplined and clearly focused on public interest, any proposal to redo the Constitution will break down into acrimony and dysfunction, blocking progress toward the development of progressive ways and means.
Face it, the Philippine Constitution will never be a rallying point, as was the American document. It will never crystallize the ideals of a nation in words.
Filipinos far and wide are not so interested in words.
Rallying is best be done by Manny Pacquiao and Jessica Sanchez or lightning rods like China and America, when they act with offense.
Ideals are not something Filipinos are fond of, or deal well with. Like the nuances of freedom of speech and plagiarism, representing the good and the bad of ideals. Ideals are not rallying points here. Offenses are.
But I digress royally.
Kudos to the Mothers of the Philippine Constitution for getting crafted a sound anchor to laws in a rather lawless land.