Seven Constitutions

Manila Bulletin, July 16, 2010 | Go to article overview

Seven Constitutions


This is the title of Comelec Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento's book that was supposed to have been launched last Wednesday. That was at the height of Basyang's fury. These are excerpts from the speech I had prepared for the event that will be held at a future date.

I met Rene for the first time when we were both members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. At the time, he was nominated as youth sector representative to the commission, he was an associate at the Jose W. Diokno Law Office and was a member of a number of activist law groups such as FLAG and MABINI. We were part of the bloc which drafted many so-called progressive provisions on national economy, social justice, education, communication, specifically on sovereignty rights like the US bases, national territory, the Commission on Human Rights, agrarian reform, and rights of the marginalized - farmers, fisherfolk, labor women. He and I defended the integration of pre-school and alternative learning systems. In addition to his exemplary performance at the Con-Com and the Comelec, he has been recognized (and awarded) for public service as member of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, peace negotiator, member then vice chairman of the Government for Talks with the CPP-NPA/NDF, Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and later, its officer in charge. At San Beda College, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Human Rights Law, he was bestowed the Senator Raul S. Roco Public Service Award.

Rene's book, a compilation of the seven Constitutions - from the 1897 Biak Na Bato to the present 1987 Constitution - is a much welcome publication as this is the first time, all seven of the fundamental laws of the land are contained in one volume. Which facilitates our understanding of the pervading mood as well as the "revolutionary" spirit of the times when the provisions were being drafted. Former SC Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, in his Foreword, notes that the "perusal of our seven constitutions is also a study of our history and destiny as a people." The selected prayers likewise reflect aspirations - "protection of human rights and recognition of the extraordinary potentialities of the ordinary man" (Justice Roberto Concepcion); "that this covenant of the people be not shattered by evil forces" (ConCom Chair Cecilia Munoz Palma); "that the spirit of freedom reign in our land, igniting the divine spark in every human being" (Jose Com. …

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