Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s proposed revision of the 1987 Constitution goes beyond the ‘seven points’ mentioned by Speaker Jose de Venecia, as it substantially impacts on the political, economic and human rights of the Filipino people. The ‘seven points’ failed to mention that :

1. Pres. Gloria Arroyo will remain President, with more executive powers, until 2010 with or without the 2007 elections.

2. It takes away the safety mechanism that will check the Executive’s powers to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; and

3. Its economic provisions go beyond the mere ‘easing of restrictions on foreign investments” as it grants aliens the right to own lands in the Philippines and exploit natural resources, both rights previously reserved to Filipinos under the 1987 Constitution. Worse, it opens to foreign ownership the operation of public utilities.

These ‘revisions’ virtually overhaul substantial provisions that protect the peoples’ economic and political rights under the current Constitution.

Firstly, it grants Pres. Gloria Arroyo greater powers until 2010 under Section 8, Art. XVIII, to wit :

Sec. 8 From the ratification of the foregoing Amendments to June 30, 2010, the incumbent President shall continue to exercise the same power a she has now, except those that she will delegate to the Prime Minister who shall serve as chief operating officer of the government, conformably with the Parliamentary system.

Worse, she is granted the power to dissolve parliament under Sec. 6, Art. VII of the proposed Constitution. With the power to dissolve Parliament, Pres. Arroyo has virtual control of the legislature as even the opposition will be forced to tow her line or face the consequence of running for another expensive reelection if she dissolves Parliament. Pres. Arroyo practically controls the most important body in a parliamentary system—the Parliament. This proposed system will become the only parliamentary system in the world where the President is more powerful than the Prime Minister.

Secondly, the safety mechanisms under the 1987 Constitution were surreptitiously deleted in Section 12, Art. VII-A of Arroyo proposed Constitution, notably the following very important provisions:

[DELETED: Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the [President-Prime Minister] shall submit a report in person or in writing to [Congress-Parliament]. [Congress-Parliament], by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President and the Prime Minister. Upon the initiative of the [President-Prime Minister], [Congress-Parliament] may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by Parliament, if the invasion, rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it. [Congress-Parliament], if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of call.]

[DELETED: The Supreme Court may review in an appropriate proceedings filed by any citizen, the FACTUAL BASIS OF THE PROCLAMATION OF MARTIAL LAW…. and must promulgate its decision within 30 days from its filing.]

[DELETED: The state of Martial Law DOES NOT SUSPEND THE OPERATION OF THE CONSTITUTION nor supplant the functioning of civil courts and legislative assemblies nor AUTHORIZE THE CONFERMENT OF JURISDICTION ON MILITARY COURTS.. nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.. ]

[DELETED: The suspension of the …writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected to the invasion.]

[DELETED: During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained SHALL BE JUDICIALLY CHARGED WITHIN THREE DAYS, OTHERWISE HE SHALL BE RELEASED. (Underscoring supplied).]

This deletion makes Pres. Arroyo a very powerful President, considering that the Parliament and Supreme Court no longer have the authority to check her martial law powers. Due to our experience during martial law when the Supreme Court used the political question doctrine to shirk from its duty to look into the arbitrariness of the martial law declaration, the 1987 Constitution expressly enshrined the power of the Court to look into the factual basis of martial law. The Arroyo Constitution eliminates this role and duty of the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the Arroyo Constitution added a new ground for the declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ—insurrection or the imminent danger thereof. Under this rule, EDSA 1 and 2 can be the basis for the declaration of martial law—as part of an insurrection. Considering Pres. Arroyo’s penchant to call any criticism against her as ‘destabilization’ and a threat to national security, she may in fact declare martial law the moment people power takes place. Worse, the ‘imminent danger’ standard, which is much lower than the current jurisprudence on ‘clear and present danger’, will make it easier for Pres. Arroyo to suspend the writ. With this rule in place, there will be no need for an anti-terrorism law, as the warrantless arrest of those considered the ‘enemies of the state’ will be constitutionally enshrined.

With additional powers for the President under the Arroyo Constitution, Pres. Arroyo may declare martial and dissolve the parliament, a throw back to the martial law era when Pres. Marcos closed congress upon declaration of martial law—the only difference is, this act will now be constitutionally protected.

Thirdly, the Arroyo Constitution grants aliens the right to own lands in the Philippines, exploit our natural resources and operate public utilities—rights previously reserved to Filipinos or Filipino owned corporations under the 1987 Constitution.

(a) Sec. 1, Art. XII of the Arroyo Constitution expressly declared that ‘ Parliament may provide by law ownership of RESIDENTIAL and INDUSTRIAL lands by foreigners in connection with their investment in the country under such conditions it may deem necessary for the protection of the Filipino people. (underscoring supplied)

This insertion is totally new as it now opens ownership of prime lands to foreigners.

(b) Sec. 2 of Art. XII of the Arroyo Constitution provides:

“The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens [DELETED: OR CORPORATIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS AT LEAST SIXTY PER CENTUM OF WHOSE CAPITAL IS OWNED BY SUCH CITIZENS] or with corporation or association domestic or foreign.” (new provision underlined)

This practically opens the utilization of natural resources such as mining, logging, and fishing to corporations fully owned by foreigners, by deleting the provision limiting such to corporation at least 60% of which capital is Filipino owned.

(c) Sec. 11, Art. XII of the Arroyo Constitution provides :

Sec. 11. No franchise, certificate or any other form of authorization for the operating of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations organized under Philippine laws [DELETED: AT LEAST SIXTY PER CENTUM OF WHOSE CAPITAL IS OWNED BY SUCH CITIZENS] nor shall such franchise, certificate, authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years… (deleted provision in red).

Again, the 60-40 requirement is deleted paving the way for ownership by a corporation fully owned by aliens, of public utilities such as those in electricity, water and communication. It must be noted that Art. XVII of the Arroyo Constitution restricting ownership of the mass media and advertising industries to Filipinos were also deleted.

It is therefore misleading for Pres. Arroyo and Speaker de Venecia to trivialize the impact of their proposed economic revisions as mere ‘easing up of restrictions’ on foreign ownership. The opening of lands to foreigners will not only hit local businesses but also further open up the people to the vagaries of globalization.
Pres. Arroyo is deluding the Filipino people by withholding the fact that under her proposed Constitution, she remains in power until 2010, with more powers than she currently has through the grant of power to dissolve the Parliament and deletion of provisions that will check her martial law authority.

CODAL expresses concern over the move of the Constitutional Amendments Committee to agenda the Arroyo Constitution despite the fact that the Committee has already passed Committee Report 26 on Amendments to the 1987 Constitution, and transmitted it to the Senate. This act—of considering an amendment to a bill or resolution already passed by the House on third reading—is unprecedented under the Rules of the House of Representatives. It also violates Sec. 26 (2) of Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution which declares that “ Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed…” .

CODAL condemns this brazen attempt to attack the economic, civil and political rights of the Filipino people through the complete revision of the 1987 Constitution, as nothing more than a recipe for dictatorship by a president whose mandate to stay in power is under question.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares (Spokesperson)
Date : January 17, 2006.


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