Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The sudden appearance of a ‘working draft’ of proposed amendments to the Constitution in the agenda of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments is ominous to Philippine foreign policy. The proposal contains constitutional amendments that absolutely favors the United States over the rights of Filipinos. CODAL is concerned at the hasty approval by the House Majority of the motion to use the ‘working draft’ in crafting amendments to the 1987 Constitution despite the fact that the Committee Report on constitutional amendments has already been approved. Sec. 38 of the Rules of the House prohibit amendments to a committee report already passed and approved by a legislative Committee. CODAL believes that the U.S. government has a hand in the last-minute insertion of the working draft in the agenda of the Constitutional Amendments Committee.

The ‘working draft’ attempts to virtually eliminate the last constitutional obstacle to the deployment of US troops and the reestablishment of US military bases in the Philippines with the deletion from the ‘working draft’ of Sec. 25, Art. XVIII of the 1987 Constitution which provides that:

Sec. 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate, and when the Congress so requires, ratified by the Filipino people in a national referendum held for the purposes, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State. (underscoring supplied)
The dismantling of the U.S. military bases in 1992 has long created a vacuum in US military presence in Southeast Asia, a strategic location for U.S. forward military position in the Asian region. U.S. attempts at reestablishing military bases here have been unsuccessful due to this provision and the people’s opposition, forcing the US and Philippine government to resort to executive agreements like the VFA. The deletion of this provision in the proposed Constitution will pave the way for the putting up of US military bases in the Philippines.

Art. VI, Sec. 14 (1) of the ‘working draft’ further highlights the intention of its drafters, with the lowering in the legislative voting threshold necessary for concurring in the ratification of a treaty or executive agreement:

Sec. 14 (1) Except as other wise provided in this Constitution, no treaty shall be valid unless concurred in by a MAJORITY of all members of Parliament.

Under Art. VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution, “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least TWO-THIRDS of all the members of the Senate”. The ‘working draft’ will ensure unhampered passage of treaties concluded by the executive with the US considering that the Prime Minister under a parliamentary system has the support of at least a majority of parliament.

The working draft also amended Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution by replacing the term ‘renounces’ found in the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions with the weaker term ‘abhors’, when it provided that :

SEC. 2. The Philippines ABHORS [renounces] war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.

Unlike the previous Constitutions which requires the positive act of renouncing war as an instrument of national policy, the ‘working draft’ now allows the Philippine to resort to war as a matter of policy even if it finds war ‘abhorrent’. The amendment removes a policy hindrance to the entry of the Philippines in U.S. led ‘wars against terrorism’ in various countries around the world.

These deletions and insertions were never mentioned by Speaker Jose de Venecia in the ‘seven points’ contained in the proposed Constitution supported by Pres. Gloria Arroyo, the LAKAS-NUCD National Directorate and the House Majority.

The Philippine government has long been criticized for its subservience to US policy dictates. The failure of the Department of Foreign Affairs to serve the arrest warrant on US soldiers accused of rape is one more example of such subservience. Under the Constitution and Rule 113, Sec. 3 of the Rules of Court, the warrant should have been officially served, even if the US has preemptively rejected surrendering the four accused, to give the issuing court the basis with which to officially respond. This latest insult to the Filipino people is certainly not the last. Amending our Constitution to tailor to US policy interest will see to that.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares (Spokesperson)
Date : January 18, 2006