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RBH 15 Proposes These Changes to the 1987 Philippine Constitution

The draft federal Constitution proposes a lot of changes that have nothing to do with federalism.
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The proposed federal constitution that was passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives earlier this week has been called various names, ranging from “fake federalism” to a “disaster to democracy.”

Critics cannot be blamed. As former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said in a televised interview with ABS-CBN News just days after Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15 was passed, “the Constitution was discussed haphazardly.”

Puno added, “The process followed by the House of Representatives—the first reading, the second reading—there was hardly any in-depth debate on the various aspects of the Constitution.” 

As many have pointed out, under the draft proposal, lawmakers are proposing to lift their term limits and completely remove the prohibition against political dynasties in the existing Constitution. Read the entire draft, and—while there are some sections that may be worth considering—there are several other questionable propositions. 

In the next few weeks, we will share the amendments made by the authors of RBH 15 to the 1987 constitution that may have been missed by most. Below are the first six sections of the 1987 Constitution, with notable changes made under the proposed RBH 15 marked: Text highlighted in yellow were omitted from the 1987 constitution, while text highlighted in blue are the ones added in the proposal.

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Preamble

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

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Article I | National Territory

The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and
waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has
Sovereignty, sovereign rights, or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial, aerial and maritime domains, which shall include all territorial islands, waters, and airspace recognized under domestic laws, international laws and conventions, and judgments of competent international courts and tribunals. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.

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Article II | Declaration of Principles and State Policies

The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. The State shall recognize regional autonomy towards federalism within the framework of national unity and the Constitution. (Section 1)

The state renounces war as an instrument of national policy, condemns any act of terrorism, and adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations. (Section 2)

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Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines The Government of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State and the goal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is to secure the sovereignty of the State and to safeguard the integrity of the national territory. (Section 3)

The separation of church and State shall be inviolable. Relations between them shall be governed by benevolent neutrality. (Section 6)

The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights. The State shall give the highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of every person to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably distributing wealth and diffusing political power for the common good. It shall promote social justice in all phases of national development. (Section 11)

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The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. (Section 16)

The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development. The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all. (Section 17)

Some sections added in the proposal include the following:

The State shall foster the preservation, enrichment and evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression. (Section 17)

The State shall give priority to research and development, invention, innovation, and their utilization. It shall likewise give priority to science and technology education, training and services, and support indigenous, appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, and their application to the country’s productive systems and national life. (Section 18)

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The following were completely omitted from the original text:

SECTION 18. The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.

SECTION 19. The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.

SECTION 23. The State shall encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.

SECTION 25. The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.

And were instead replaced by the following sections:

The State shall protect the rights of labor, promote employment opportunities, and pursue the economic goal of full employment. Well-established rights shall include the right of workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiation, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. Workers shall enjoy the equitable treatment and freedom from discrimination on matters of employment tenure, working conditions, and wage levels. The State shall regulate worker-employer relations with the objectives of promoting shared responsibility between workers and employers. (Section 19)

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The State shall promote the development of a dynamic and productive economy where opportunities, income, and wealth are equitably distributed. (Section 20)

agrarian reform higher agricultural productivity and equitable land ownership arrangements. (Section 22)

The State shall recognize the vital role of learning and communication in nation-building and shall promote the joint development of languages and cultures, to enrich the people’s lives and strengthen national unity. (Section 24)

SECTION 26. The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.

The State shall recognize the distinct cultural and historical heritage of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. In the creation of their respective states, the Congress shall consider the historical, cultural, economic, social and other relevant characteristics of the territories within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. (Section 28)

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Article III | Bill of Rights

SECTION 1. The natural right to protect oneself shall always be respected by the State. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Article IV | Bill of Duties

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Here, the authors introduce a completely new section to the constitution, embodying the ideals of the Patriotic Oath.

It shall be the duty of every citizen to be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes and cooperate within the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane and orderly society. (Section 1)

The rights of the individual impose upon him or her the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others. (Section 2)

Citizens shall at all times respect the life and dignity of every person and uphold human rights. (Section 3)

Citizens shall participate actively in public and civic affairs, contribute to good governance, honesty, and integrity in the public service, and the vitality and viability of democracy. (Section 4)

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Article V | Citizenship

No changes.

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Article VI | Suffrage

SECTION 1. Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen (18) years of age, and, except for qualified Filipinos abroad under the system for absentee voting or as may be provided by law, shall have domiciled in the Philippines for at least one (1) year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six (6) months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.

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Article VII | Political Parties

An additional section is also introduced to lay out the mechanics that will be at play once a two-party system is imposed.

The State shall adopt and develop a two-party system as a mechanism of representation and democratic governance. The political parties shall be registered with the Commission on Elections which shall ensure that each political party has duly adopted its program and platform of Government. Religious dominations and sects shall be refused registration. Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government, shall likewise be refused registration. 

Financial contribution from foreign governments and their agencies to political parties organizations, coalitions or candidates related to elections, constitute interference in national affairs and when accepted, shall be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration with the Commission in addition to other penalties that may be prescribed by law. (Section 1)

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The Congress, shall, by law, establish the institutionalization of a two-party system that shall serve as a mechanism of communication and cooperation between the citizens and the State, facilitate political organization and representation, and continuously form, formulate, and ultimately develop an informed public opinion. (Section 2.1)

As a democratic public institution, political parties shall develop a system of administration that is aimed at developing the parties’ professional bureaucracy and membership. They shall observe fair, honest, and democratic processes in nominating and selecting party officials and candidates for public office. They shall ensure the integrity and loyalty and discipline of their members. (Section 2.2)

The first two dominant parties which garnered most out of the electoral seats in the first national elections under this Constitution shall be the official parties that will represent under the two-party system. The Congress shall, by law, thereafter provide for the other details and mechanics that will govern the ensuing elections under the new system. (Section 2.3)

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The Congress, shall, by law, provide for mechanisms to make sure that the political parties are given a definite period of free space on broadcast and print media and other similar platforms during the election period. (Section 2.4)

The political affiliation of any elective public officer shall not be changed during the term of office and the political affiliation of any candidate for an elective office shall not be changed within six months immediately preceding or following an election. An elected official shall be deemed to have forfeited the respective office in violation of this prohibition. (Section 3)

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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