How long will we endure the flawed 1987 Aquino Constitution?

Sunday November 03, 2019 ()

Thirty two years ago, President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, whose government had been frequently associated with "miracles", invoked the powers of a rebel government, abolished the 1973 Constitution, scrapped the Batasang Pambansa (Parliament), the Supreme Court, local government units, and the civil and military services.

1987 Constitutional Commission
(1987 Constitutional Commission)

And to provide her government with democratic legitimacy, she arrogated power unto herself by handpicking 48 men and women, including prelates and suspected communists, and hastily framed her own Constitution, the substance and wordings of which, due mostly to the hatred of the late President Marcos and accommodations of the diverse political, social and economic interests of the framers, became the longest in Philippine history and probably in the world.

It had 39,000 words and punctuation marks, ran 58 pages, and was four times longer than the brief but all-embracing US Constitution that has already been amended 26 times.

The 1935 Philippine Constitution, with 7,828 words and punctuation marks, was finished in nine months; the 1973 Constitution, consisting of 13,671 words and punctuation marks, was deliberated in a span of two years. The Aquino Constitution, by comparison, was completed in a record time of only four months.

As a result, it had 97 open-ended and ambiguous provisions that were entrusted to Congress to provide the enabling law with equally nebulous phrases: " ... as may be provided by law" or "as Congress may provide."

For instance, the Aquino Constitution, in Section 26, Article II, provides that:

"The State shall guarantee equal opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law."

Because of inaction, dynastism became widespread ever since.

Another provision in Section 28, Article II, also provides that:

"Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interests."

Again, by inaction, the Aquino administration had swept too many secrets under the rug and her regime was littered with numerous rugs bulging with dark and dirty transactions.

Still another ambiguous provision is the mandate that the government pursues an industrialization policy, a policy that was no different from the infamous 1946 Bell Trade Act designed to preserve the Philippines as an agricultural country, a supplier of raw materials, a reliable source of cheap labor and a market for imported consumer goods.

According to the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the Act, also known as the Philippine Trade Act, linked the Philippine economy to the United States economy in several ways:

  • A system of preferential tariffs was established, undermining control over imports and exports by the Philippine government;
  • The Philippine currency, the peso, was pegged to the US dollar;
  • The Philippine government was obligated not to place restrictions on currency transfers from the Philippines to the United States;
  • US citizens and corporations were granted equal access with Philippine citizens to Philippine minerals, forests and other natural resources, despite provisions in the Philippine constitution to the contrary which the act required to be amended.

Filipino nationalists denounced the Bell Trade Act. Even the reliably pro-American Philippine President Sergio Osmena called it a "curtailment of Philippine sovereignty, virtual nullification of Philippine independence." In 1955, nine years after passage of the Bell Trade Act, a revised United States-Philippine Trade Agreement (the Laurel-Langley Agreement) was negotiated to replace it.[3] This treaty abolished the United States authority to control the exchange rate of the peso, made parity privileges reciprocal, extended the sugar quota and extended the time period for the reduction of other quotas and for the progressive application of tariffs on Philippine goods exported to the United States.

Up to now, none of these imperfect provisions in the Aquino Constitution had been corrected or amended, resulting to an economy that can barely employ its own people and the repeated culpable violations of the Constitution.

Worse, most Filipinos, particularly the youth, are still ignorant about the Aquino Constitution.

Why?

Because it failed to educate them about its meaning and implications despite the specific mandate of her Constitution in Article XIV, Section 3 that: "All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula."

For instance, when the Aquino regime campaigned for the ratification of her Constitution in 1987, her propagandists resorted to "glittering generalities" by ascribing her Constitution with some lofty ideals.

Thus, some pro-charter propagandists in that one-sided campaign said that a "yes" vote for the Constitution was a "yes" for democracy, for freedom, for progress and for stability. What right-thinking person was not for democracy, or freedom, or progress or stability?

Since many, if not all, of the voters were for these beautiful concepts, they voted "yes" to the Constitution although most of them had not read its provisions.

Curiously, Aquino and her supporters, including some sectors of the Catholic Church, had vigorously opposed efforts to amend the flawed Constitution.

Why is a good Constitution important?

The answer is simple: it is very important because it affects the lives of all Filipinos, rich and poor. Their government is based on it, their rights and privileges are supposed to be protected by it, and their way of life largely depended on it.

To paraphrase Floyd G. Cullop, a teacher:

"To be ignorant of the Constitution is to be ignorant of all the things your country is ... and of the truth its people have believed to be above all others in the relationship between human beings and government."

Sources:

  • How long will this country endure the flawed 1987 Aquino Constitution?, Cecilio T. Arillo, October 31, 2019, Business Mirror


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