Constitutional Distortion or Heresy?

Manila Bulletin, July 2, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Constitutional Distortion or Heresy?


Byline: MANUEL (Lolong) M. LAZARO President, Philippine Constitution Association

A CONSTITUTION is the embodiment of a "society's fundamental values" and "particular vision of a good and achievable community life." (Walter F. Murphy, James E. Fleming and William F. Harris, American Constitutional Interpretation, New York: The Foundation Press, Inc., 1986, p. 1). Cognizant of the Constitution's paramount importance, Frederick Stimson, the noted author of the book "American Constitution," intoned/accentuated that the framing of the Constitution is the 'highest political act.' (at pp. 8 and 9). Once framed, the Constitution becomes integral to national life. Thus, the French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, intellectually cerebrated in forceful and felicitous prose, that the Constitution "is not graven on tablets of marble but on the hearts of the citizens."

Yet, no Constitution is ever perfect, much less clairvoyant to predicts and adapt to all the changing tides of human affairs. It requires amendment or revision from time to time. The Constitution itself provides for its own process of amendment or revision. This amendatory process is a supreme political process reserved exclusively and ultimately for the sovereign people to exercise. It is exercised purposely to embody, express and affectuate the supreme will of the people. This is the lawful kernel of "people power" that was institutionalized in the present Constitution (See Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. COMELEC, 262 SCRA 492).

Cha-cha is reserved exclusively for the sovereign people through their chosen representatives to exercise

Participation of the people through their duly elected representatives is the very essence of the political process of constitutional amendment or revision. Only the representatives of the people chosen for the purpose may speak for the people. Others not chosen directly by the people cannot faithfully reflect the people's will. They can only surmise or theorize. They cannot assume a pseudo-active role of speaking for the people. Such is an imperious deceit and a well-bred fraud. Their pretense subverts the people's will. The sovereign people, not the selfanointed leaders, politicians or mobilized groups, has the final say on when the Constitution may be amended or revised and who will undertake such preeminent function.

Vexing questions

Beset by political and economic crises, the nation seeks for an answer or a solution. Among the raging polemical questions confronting and dividing the nation today in the face of mounting and myriad problems are: (a) whether now is the right time and opportune occasion to amend or revise the Constitution? (b) what is the most democratic and least politicized vehicle to amend or revise the Constitution and address the numerous and varied issues emanating or radiating therefrom? These vexing questions, sired by the rush of events and the personalities involved, have assumed multi-dimensional suspicion and distrust. Proponents of Charter change (Cha-cha) have uttered malleable remarks garbed with teasing imprecision suggesting that the proposed amendments or revisions are the necessary cures to the problems of the nation today and the engine to prosperity. Rhetorics collide with body language evoking conflicting fuzzy and mystic impressions. And embedded in the rush for "Cha-cha," to use the term of Hegel, "is the cunning of reason." In the realm of politics, the moment of temptation is the moment of choice or action. Political hypocrisy is more seductive and lucrative than political honesty.

Aesthetic formulation

The reported "aesthetic creativity" formulated by the House of Representatives (House), in its resolute stance to propose amendments to, or revisions of the Constitution, with or without the participation of the Senate, upon a vote of three-fourths of all members of Congress, whether voting singly or separately, acting as constituent assembly, is a classic illustration of constitutional heresy or distortion embellished by tour de force arguments wrapped in wrinkled language.

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