THE Senate started on Wednesday public debates to determine whether there was a need to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution either through a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention that would pave the way for a shift to a federal form of government.
Two former framers of the present Charter set the tone for the discussions as they presented opposing views before the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes headed by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
“There is absolutely no need to amend or revise our Constitution. I would not hesitate to assert that our 1987 Constitution, even if imperfect—as none is perfect except God—is the best in the world, the best for our country and our people, not just of our generation but even for the generations yet unborn,” said former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr.
“I have yet to see another Constitution, which could surpass our present Constitution. I know this Constitution quite well. I was among the Commissioners of the 1986 Constitutional Commission who drafted it,” Davide said.
Another former Chief Justice, Reynato Puno, however, disagreed.
“The 1987 Constitution is now 31 years old. Conditions have changed. The political, social, and the economic configurations not only of the Philippines but whole world have changed. And so we now have globalization.”
“We now see the effects of the revolution caused by technology. And I like to think that it is time to give the 1987 Constitution a lookover, a no-nonsense review and that is why we hear a lot of calls for reexamination of the ‘87 Constitution,” Puno said.
Davide and Puno were among the resource persons invited to the first public hearing at the Senate on several proposed measures to amend the Charter.
Also invited was former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, an advocate of federalism and of Charter change.
Aside from Puno, Davide and Pimentel, also present at the hearing were former Justice Adolfo Azcuna, Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
The resource persons were asked to give their opinions on the following questions:
1. Is there a need to revise the Constitution?
2. What parts of the Constitution should be revised?
3. Should the amendments or revisions be done by a Constitutional Convention? Or by Congress acting as a Constituent Assembly?
4. If the revision of the Constitution is done by Constituent Assembly, should the two houses of Congress vote jointly or separately?
5. Can Congress pass a resolution limiting the powers of the Constituent Assembly or the Constitutional Convention?