Changing the Constitution

There have been renewed discussions regarding the need to amend the 1987 Constitution. The Law Professor agrees that a constitution must not remain static, it must always be dynamic and reflect or adjust to what the current situation of the country requires. It does not follow that what may have been applicable in 1987 is still applicable today. We can only hope that whoever is tasked with amending the Constitution does so while thinking about the country and not him or herself.

   At the onset, it would be wise to distinguish amendment from revision.  Amendment means an isolated or piecemeal change in the Constitution. On the other hand, revision is the revamp or the rewriting of the entire instrument.

   So, how do you amend or revise the constitution?  The first step is through proposal. Under Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution there are three ways to propose amendments.  The first is by Congress through a vote of 3/4 of all its members.  By 3/4 vote,  it is understood to be 3/4 of the Senate and 3/4 of the House of Representatives.  Generally, Congress has both constituent and legislative powers.  Their constituent powers include the power to formulate a constitution or propose amendments or revisions and to ratify the same. Legislative power refers to the power to pass, repeal or amend ordinary laws or statutes.  In amending the Constitution, the Congress will be exercising their constituent powers.

   The second method of proposal is through a constitutional convention.  The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention. 

   The last method of proposal is made by the people through initiative.  This is done through a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. However, no amendment  shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of the Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter. 

   Congress was also tasked to provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right and they did just that by enacting Republic Act 6735 entitled, “An Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum”.  Proposed amendments shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.