CONCEPT OF CONSTITUTION
Meaning of Constitution
In broad sense, the term constitution refers to “that body of rules and principles in
accordance with which the powers of sovereignty are regularly exercised.” As thus defined, it
covers both written and unwritten constitution.
Nature and Purpose or Function of Constitution
1. Serves as the supreme or fundamental law. – A constitution is the charter creating the
government. It has the status of a supreme or fundamental law as it speaks for the
entire people from whom it derives its claim to obedience.
a. Establishes basic framework and underlying principles of government. – The
constitution is also referred to as the organic or basic law being or relating to the
law by virtue of which the government exists as such.
Meaning of Constitutional Law
Constitutional law may be defined as that branch of public law which treats of
constitutions, their nature, formation, amendment, and interpretation.
Kinds of Constitution
Constitution may classify as follows:
1. As to their origin and history
a. Conventional or enacted. One which is enacted by a constituent assembly or granted
by a monarch to his subjects like the Constitution of Japan in 1889; and
b. Cumulative or evolved. Like the English Constitution, one which is a product of
growth or a long period of development originating in customs, traditions, judicial
decisions, etc., rather than from a deliberate and formal enactment.
2. As to their form
a. Written. One which has been given definite written form at a particular time, usually
by a specially constituted authority called a “constitutional convention”; and
b. Unwritten. One which is entirely the product of political revolution, consisting largely
of a mass of customs, usages and judicial decisions together with a smaller body of
statutory enactments of a fundamental character, usually bearing different dates.
3. As to manner of amending them
a. Rigid or inelastic. One regarded as a document of special sanctity which cannot be
amended or altered except by some special machinery more cumbrous than the
ordinary legislative process; and
b. Flexible or elastic. One which possesses no higher legal authority than ordinary laws
and which may be altered in the same way as other laws.
The Philippine Constitution may be classified as conventional or enacted, written, rigid
or inelastic. It was drafted by an appointive body called “Constitutional Commission.”
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Written Constitution
1. It has the advantage of clearness and definiteness over an unwritten one. This is
because it is prepared with great care and deliberation. Such a constitution cannot be
easily bent or twisted by the legislature or by the courts, to meet the temporary fancies
of the moment. Hence, the protection it affords and the rights it guarantees are apt to
be more secure. Moreover, it is more stable and free from all dangers of temporary
2. Its disadvantage lies in the difficulty of its amendment. This prevents the immediate
introduction of needed changes and may thereby retard the healthy growth and
progress of the state.
Requisites of a Good Written Constitution
1. As to form, a good written constitution should be:
a. Brief. Because if the constitution is too detailed, it would lose the advantage of a
fundamental law which in a few provisions outlines the structure of the government
of the whole state and the rights of the citizens. It would probably never be
understood by the public. Furthermore, it would then be necessary to amend it
every once in a while to cover many future contingencies;
b. Broad. Because a statement of the powers and functions of government , and of the
relations between the governing body and the governed, requires that it be as
comprehensive as possible; and
c. Definite. Because otherwise the application of its provisions to concrete situations
may prove unduly difficult if not impossible. Any vagueness which may lead to
opposing interpretations of essential features may cause incalculable harm. Civil war
and the disruption of the state may conceivably follow from the ambiguous
expressions in a constitution.
2. As to contents, it should contain at least three sets of provisions:
a. That dealing with the framework of government and its powers and defining the
electorate. This group of provisions has been called the constitution of government;
b. That setting forth the fundamental rights of the people and imposing certain
limitations on the powers of government as a means of securing the enjoyment of
these rights. This group has been referred to as the constitution of liberty; and
c. That pointing out the mode or procedure for amending or revising the constitution.
This group has been called the constitution of sovereignty.
Constitution Distinguished from Statute
1. A constitution is a legislation direct from the people, while a statute is a legislation from
the people’s representatives;
2. A constitution merely states the general framework of the law and the government,
while a statute provides the details of the subject of which it treats;
3. A constitution is intended not merely to meet existing conditions but to govern the
future, while a statute is intended primarily to meet existing conditions only; and
4. A constitution is the supreme or fundamental law of the State to which the statutes and
all other laws must conform.
Authority to Interpret the Constitution
1. Even a private individual may interpret or ascertain the meaning of particular provisions
of Constitution in order to govern his own actions and guide him in his dealings with
2. It is evident, however, that only those charged with official duties, whether executive,
legislative, or judicial, can give authoritative interpretation of the Constitution.
a. This function belongs primarily to the courts whose final decisions are binding on all
departments or organs of the government, including the legislature.
b. There are, however, constitutional questions (i.e., political questions) which under
the Constitution are addressed to the discretion of the other departments and,
therefore, before the power of the judiciary to decide. Thus, the determination of
the President as to which foreign government is to be recognized by the Philippines
cannot be passed upon by the courts.
Purpose in Interpreting the Constitution
The fundamental purpose in constructing constitutional provisions is to ascertain and
give effect to the intent of the framers and of the people who adopted or approved it or its
It is, therefore, the duty of the courts to constantly keep in mind the objectives sought
to be accomplished by its adoption and the evils, if any, sought to be prevented or remedied. It
may be assumed that the people, in ratifying the constitution, were guided mainly by the
explanations given by the framers on the meaning of its provisions.
CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC
OF THE PHILIPPINES
The 1935 Constitution
1. Framing and Ratification. Briefly stated, the state which led to the drafting and adoption
of the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines are as follows:
a. Approval on March 24, 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the Tydings-
McDuffie Law, otherwise known as the Philippine Independence Act, enacted by the
United States Congress, authorizing the Philippine Legislature to call a constitutional
convention to draft a constitution for the Philippines;
b. Approval on May 5, 1934 by the Philippine Legislature of a bill calling a constitutional
convention as provided for in the Independence Law;
c. Approval on February 8, 1935 by the convention by a vote of 177 to 1 of the
Constitution (the signing began on the following day and was completed on
February 19, 1935);
d. Approval on March 23, 1935 by Pres. Roosevelt of the Constitution as submitted to
him, together with a certification that the said Constitution conformed with the
provisions of the Independence Law; and
e. Ratification on May 14, 1935 of the Constitution by the Filipino electorate by a vote
of 1,213,046, with 44,963 against.
2. Limitations and Conditions. While the Tydings-Mcduffie Law empowered the Filipinos to
frame their own Constitution, it contained, however, provisions limiting such authority.
The 1935 Constitution ceased to operate during the Japanese occupation from
1942-1944. It automatically became effective upon the re-establishment of the
Commonwealth government on February 27, 1945 and the inauguration of the Republic
of the Philippines On July 4, 1946.
3. Sources. The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines did not contain original ideas of
government. While the dominating influence was the Constitution of the United States,
other sources were also consulted by the framers, particularly the 1898 Malolos
Constitution and the three organic laws that were enforced in the Philippines before the
passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Law, namely: the Instruction of Pres. William McKinley
to the Second Philippine Commission on April 7, 1900; the Philippine Bill of July 1, 1902;
and the Jones Law of August26, 1916 which, of the three mentioned, was the nearest
approach to a written constitution.
4. Scope. The Constitution as approved by the 1935 Constitutional Convention was
intended both for the Commonwealth and the Republic. Thus, Article XVII (which later
became Article XVIII after the Constitution was amended) declares: “The government
established by this Constitution shall be known as the Commonwealth of the
Philippines. Upon the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United
States and the proclamation of the Philippine Independence, the Commonwealth of the
Philippines shall henceforth be known as the Republic of the Philippines.”
5. Amendments. The 1935 Constitution had been amended three times. Among the
a. That establishing a bicameral legislature;
b. That allowing the reeligibility of the President and the Vice-President for a
second four-year term of office;
c. That creating a separate Commission on Elections; and
d. The so-called Parity Amendment which gave to American citizens equal right
with the Filipinos in the exploitation of our natural resources and the operation
of public utilities.
The 1973 Constitution
1. Framing. The experience of more than three decades as a sovereign nation had revealed
flaws and inadequacies in the 1935 Constitution.
a. Taking into account the “felt necessities of the times” particularly the new and
grave problems arising from an ever increasing population, urgently pressing for
solution, Congress in joint session on March 16,1967, passed resolution of both
Houses No. 2 (as amended by Resolution No. 4, passed on June 17, 1971),
authorizing the holding of a constitutional convention in 1971.
b. On August 24, 1970, Republic Act No. 6132 was approved setting November 10,
1970, as Election Day for 320 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The
convention started its work of rewriting the Constitution on June 1, 1971. The 1935
Constitution, with reference to the Malolos Constitution, was made the basis for the
drafting of amendments to the new Constitution. The proposed Constitution was
signed on November 30, 1972.
2. Approval by Citizens Assemblies. Earlier on September 21, 1972, the President of the
Philippines issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under Martial Law.
a. “To broaden the base of Citizens’ participation in the democratic process, and to
afford ample opportunities for the citizenry to express their views on important
matters of local or national concern,” Presidential Decree No. 86 was issued on
December 31, 1972 creating a Citizens Assembly in each barrio in municipalities and
in each district in chartered cities throughout the country. Subsequently,
Presidential Decree No. 86-A was issued on January 5, 1973 defining the role of
b. Under the same decree, the barangays were to conduct a referendum on national
issues between January 10 and 15, 1973. Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 86-A,
the following questions were submitted before the Citizens’ Assemblies or
1. “Do you approve of the New Constitution?” and
2. “Do you still want a plebiscite to be called to ratify the new Constitution?”
3. Ratification by Presidential proclamation. According to Proclamation No. 1102 issued on
January 17, 1973, 14,976,561 members of all the Barangays (Citizens’ Assemblies) voted for the
adoption of the proposed Constitution, as against 743,869 who voted for its rejection.
4. Amendments. The 1973 Constitution had been amended on four occasions. Among the
important amendments are:
a. that making the then incumbent President, the regular President and regular Prime
b. that granting concurrent law-making powers to the President which the latter
exercised even after the lifting of martial law in 1981;
c. that establishing a modified parliamentary form of government;
d. that permitting natural-born citizens who have lost their citizenship to be
transferees of private land, for use by them as residence;
e. that allowing the “grant” of lands of the public domain to qualified citizens; and
f. that providing for urban land reform and social housing program.
The 1987 Constitution
1. Framing and Ratification. The 1987 Constitution was drafted by a Constitutional Commission
created under Article V of Proclamation No. 3 issued on March 25, 1986 which promulgated
the Provisional Constitution or “Freedom Constitution” following the installation of a
revolutionary government “through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people.”
a. Pursuant to Proclamation No. 3, the President promulgated on April 23, 1986
Proclamation No. 9, the “Law Governing the Constitutional Commission of 1986,”
“to organize the Constitutional Commission, to provide for the details of its
operation and establish the procedure for the ratification or rejection of the
proposed new Constitution.”
b. The Constitutional Commission, which marked the fourth exercise in the writing of
the basic charter in Philippine history since the Malolos Constitution at the turn of
the century, convened on June 2, 1986 at the Batasang Pambansa Building in
Diliman, Quezon City. With the Malolos Constitution of 1898, the 1935 Constitution,
and the 1973 Constitution as “working drafts,” the Commission in addition to
committee discussions, public hearings and plenary sessions, conducted public
consultations in different parts of the country.
c. The proposed new Constitution was approved by the Constitutional Commission on
the night of Sunday, October 12, 1986, culminating 133 days of work, by a vote of
44-2. A commissioner signed subsequently by affixing his thumb mark at his sickbed
on October 14, 1986 so that he actually voted in favor of the draft. Another
Commissioner had resigned earlier. The two Commissioners who dissented also
signed “to express their dissent and to symbolize their four months of participation
in drawing up the new Constitution.”
d. The Constitutional Commission held its final session in the morning of October 15,
1986 to sign the 109-page draft consisting of a preamble, 18 Articles, 321 Sections
and about 2,000 words – after which, on the same day, it presented to the President
the original copies in English and Filipino. It was ratified by the people in the
plebiscite held on February 2, 1987. It superseded the Provisional Constitution
which had abrogated the 1973 Charter.
2. Merits and Demerits of an appointive framing body. Admittedly, there were some merits
or advantages in delegating the drawing up of the new charter to appointed
Constitutional Commission rather than to an elected Constitutional Convention.
a. For one, the Constitutional Commission was not expensive and time-consuming,
as was our experience with the 1971 Constitutional Convention and it was thus
practical because the country could not then afford the cost of electing
delegates because of lack of funds, and time was of the essence in view of the
instability inherent in a revolutionary government and the need to accelerate the
restoration to full constitutional democracy.
b. However, the strongest and most fundamental argument propounded against
this method is that an appointive body is susceptible to the charge of lack of
independence and the suspicion of pressure and even manipulation by the
appointing power. The writing of a Constitution as the highest expression of the
people’s “ideals and aspirations” to serve the country for generations to come is
a political exercise of transcendental importance in a republican democracy and
therefore, only those directly elected and empowered by the people must be
entrusted with the task to discharge this grave and solemn responsibility.
3. Need to cure defect in the Constitution. To have a truly democratic and constitutional
government, it is absolutely necessary that the Constitution be initially drafted by duly
elected members of a representative constituent assembly or constitutional convention
and later on approved by the people in a plebiscite. Some see the need to straighten out
the present Constitution which was drafted by non-elective commissioners and ratified
under the authority of a revolutionary government. The theory is posited that having
the Constitution amended by elected delegates and having constitutional amendments
ratified under the democratic government, we will have now cured any defect in its
formulation and ratification.
Basic Principles Underlying the New Constitution
The 1987 Constitution is founded upon certain fundamental principles of government
which have become part and parcel of our cherished democratic heritage as a people. A
knowledge of these principles is, therefore, essential to a proper understanding of our organic
Among these principles as contained in the new Constitution are the following:
1. Recognition of the aid of Almighty God (see Preamble);
2. Sovereignty of the people (see Art. II, Sec. 1);
3. Renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy (see Ibid., Sec. 6);
4. Supremacy of civilian authority over the military (see Ibid., Sec. 3);
5. Separation of church and state (see Ibid., Sec. 6);
6. Recognition of the importance of the family as a basic social institution and of the vital
role of the youth in nation-building (see Ibid., Secs. 12,13; Art. XV);
7. Guarantee of human rights (see Art. III, Secs. 1-22);
8. Government through suffrage (see Art. V, Sec. 1);
9. Separation of powers (see Art. VI, Sec. 1);
10. Guarantee of local autonomy (see Art. X, Sec. 2);
11. Independence of the judiciary (see Art. VIII, Sec. 1);
12. High sense of public service morality and accountability of public officers (see Art. XI,
13. Nationalization of natural resources and certain private enterprises affected with public
interest (see Art. XII, Secs. 2, 3, 17, 18);
14. Non-suability of the State (see Art. XVI, Sec. 3);
15. Rule of the majority; and
16. Government of laws and not of men.
Rule of the Majority
1. Concept. The observance of the rule of the majority is an unwritten law of popular (i.e.,
democratic) government. The wishes of the majority prevail over those of the minority.
It does not mean that the minority is given certain fundamental rights, like the right to
express their opinions, or to protest the acts of the majority although it is bound to
abide by the decision of the latter.
2. Instances. In many instances, the rule of the majority is observed in our government.
Thus, under the new Constitution:
a. A majority vote of all the respective members of the Congress is necessary to
elect the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and
a majority of all the members of Congress to concur to a grant of amnesty and to
pass a law granting tax exemptions. In case of a tie in the election for President
(or Vice-President), the President shall be chosen by the majority vote of all the
members of both Houses of Congress.
b. A two-thirds majority of all its respective members is required to suspend or
expel a member of either House; of all the members of Congress to declare the
existence of a state of war, to reconsider a bill voted by the President, and to call
a constitutional convention; and of all the members of the Senate to concur to a
treaty or international agreement and to render a judgment of conviction in
c. Any amendment to, or revision of, the Constitution may be proposed by
Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members, and it shall be valid
when ratified by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite.
d. Decisions of the Supreme Court en banc have to be concurred in by a majority of
the members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case
and voted thereon, to pronounce a treaty, international or executive agreement,
or law unconstitutional.
In the court of Appeals, the vote of at least the majority is necessary in many cases.
Even in the passage of local ordinances, the rule of the majority is observed.
3. A practicable rule of law. The device of the majority is a practicable rule of law based on
reason and experience. Democracy assumes that in a society of rational beings, the
judgment and experience of the many will, in most instances, be superior to the
judgment and experience of the few; and hence, that the verdict of the majority will
more likely be correct than that of the minority. It is, of course, to be understood that
the majority acts within the pale of the law.
Government of Law and Not of Men
1. Concept. By this principle, which is also known and has the same import as the rule of
law, is meant that no man in this country – not even the government – is above or
beyond the law. Every man, however high and mighty his station may be, possesses no
greater rights than every other man in the eyes of the law.
2. Exercise of government powers. A government of laws, as contrasted with a government
of men, is a limited government. It has only the powers given it by the Constitution and
laws, and it may not go beyond the grants and limitations set forth therein. Its authority
continues only with the consent of the people in whom sovereignty resides. The
principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary government.
3. Observance of the law. The same is true of private individuals in the community. They
are also bound to respect the sovereignty of the law. A person may not agree with the
wisdom and expediency of the law but it is his duty to follow the law so long as it
remains in the statute books. He cannot take the law into his own hands by resorting to
violence or physical force to enforce his rights or achieve his ends without being civilly
and criminally held liable for his action.
The principle thus protects most especially the liberties of the weak and
4. Significance of the principle. It is basic that laws must be obeyed by all and applied to
everyone – rich or poor, lowly or powerful – without fear or favor. The observance of
the supremacy of the rule of law by officials, individuals, and the people as a whole is
what will sustain our democracy and assure the existence of a truly free, orderly, and
Every citizen has thus a stake in the rule of law as contrasted to the “rule of men.” Without
it, there is only anarchy, or mere semblance of order under a dictatorship.