The Marcos burial, the 1987 Constitution and the Cory Aquino dictatorship

Saturday December 24, 2016 ()
Palma and Cory Aquino
(Cecilia Munoz-Palma hands over the draft constitution to Cory Aquino)

Another group of Aquino family allies announced its opposition to the burial of the remains of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They are the surviving members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution.

In opposing the Marcos burial at the heroes cemetery, these pro-Aquino family commissioners claimed that the ouster of President Marcos in 1986 "is the backdrop to the drafting of the 1987 Constitution". Sure, but how the 1987 Constitution itself bars the Marcos burial at the Libingan is not sufficiently explained by the commissioners.

What prompted that claim anyway? Perhaps, the explanation is in the history of the 1986 Constitutional Commission itself.

When President Corazon "Cory" Aquino seized power in February 1986, she unilaterally abolished the 1973 Constitution (the charter then in force) and imposed on the Filipino people a so-called "Freedom Constitution." Aquino's "new" constitution retained the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, but eliminated the Batasang Pambansa, the legislature under the 1973 charter. As a result, Aquino exercised both executive and legislative powers. In other words, the government became a Cory Aquino dictatorship for the next 12 months.

Actually, Presidents Marcos and Aquino both exercised executive and legislative powers. Marcos got both powers from the 1973 Constitution, while Aquino got hers under her self-created "Freedom Constitution". While Aquino had no legislature to check her under the "Freedom Constitution", Marcos at least had the Batasang Pambansa under the 1973 Constitution. Although the Batasan was relatively passive from 1978 to 1984, it was quite a check against Marcos from 1984 to 1986, thanks to the assemblymen elected under Salvador "Doy" Laurel's political opposition party - the UNIDO.

The Cory Aquino dictatorship from 1986 to 1987 created the Presidential Commission on Good Government ostensibly to run after the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their allies. The PCGG, however, turned out to be a monster. By threatening their victims with writs of sequestration, many PCGG officials had a heyday making money out of their newly acquired power. The country also became the "brownout" capital of the world after Aquino abolished the Department of Energy.

Instead of calling an election for delegates to a constitutional convention which will draft a new charter, Cory Aquino created the 1986 Constitutional Commission, composed of almost 50 appointed individuals. With the exception of five commissioners recommended by the political opposition, the commissioners were Aquino's personal choices, and many were her personal friends.

After a year's work, the Commission came out with its draft charter. The draft was eventually ratified by the electorate as the 1987 Constitution, in a plebiscite called for the purpose.

Because almost all of the commissioners were political allies of President Aquino, the 1987 Constitution was a reactionary charter designed to make it virtually impossible for the president to become an absolute ruler. It also has many defects. All this notwithstanding, there is nothing in the 1987 Constitution which bans the burial of President Marcos at the Libingan.

Thus put, how the 1987 Constitution can be cited by the commissioners against the Marcos burial remains a mystery.

For the record, this is not the first time the pro-Aquino commissioners cited the 1987 charter to support their political views.

At the height of the public debate on the divisive Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was an idea of Cory's son President Benigno Aquino III, the commissioners urged Congress to enact the BBL because doing so was supposedly in accord with the intent of the 1987 Constitution. Just how the 1987 Constitution specifically warranted the enactment of the BBL despite its patently unconstitutional provisions was, as usual, not satisfactorily explained by the commissioners.

Fortunately, the BBL was assailed by noted experts in Constitutional Law led by ex-Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza because it called for, among others, the creation of a virtual Moro sub-state in Mindanao. This gave then Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos enough reason to almost single-handedly derail the BBL in the Senate.

The commissioners label the Marcos administration a dictatorship primarily because Marcos was allowed by the 1973 Constitution to exercise both executive and legislative powers, despite the existence of the Batasang Pambansa. They are, however, conveniently silent about the fact that the 1986 Constitutional Commission was created by Cory Aquino in the exercise of her dictatorial powers­ - dictatorial, because the creation of a public office like a constituent assembly requires the exercise of legislative power, something a president does not have unless that president is, following their definition, a dictator.

Drafting a new constitution is by no means an ordinary responsibility because the ensuing product will bind both the government and the people. That is why delegates to the separate constitutional conventions that drafted the 1935 Constitution and the 1973 charter were elected by the Filipino people.

Sadly, the commissioners who drafted the 1987 Constitution were not elected, but were merely appointed by President Aquino. Being so, they owe their appointment to Aquino, and not to the Filipino electorate. Where is the democracy there?

The ratification of the 1987 Constitution by the Filipino people does not make it an honest to goodness constitution of the people. Under ordinary circumstances, the plebiscite is a forum where the people are asked if they want to replace the existing constitution with another constitution. On the other hand, the choices the people had at the plebiscite on the 1987 Constitution were radically different - it was either they approve the 1987 Constitution despite its obvious defects, or they continued living under a Cory Aquino dictatorship. Since that's not much to choose from, the people naturally chose to approve the 1987 Constitution because a constitutional government under a defective constitution is a far better choice than a Cory Aquino dictatorship.

So the next time the commissioners who drafted the 1987 Constitution invoke the charter against what they call "the Marcos dictatorship," they should take a look at the historical record first.

Sources:

  1. The Marcos burial and the 1987 Charter by Victor Avecilla, December 24, 2016 (Manila Standard)

(This article is adapted from the source listed above. We are unable to grant permission for any kind of reproduction other than social media shares.)


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