Scrapping 1987 Constitution ‘shouldn’t be an option’: experts, lawmaker

·Contributor
·4 min read
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gestures during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate headquarters in Manila on May 23, 2012. Now the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, he advocates for the scrapping of the 1987 Constitution. (Photo credit: ROMEO RANOCO/AFP/GettyImages)
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gestures during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate headquarters in Manila on May 23, 2012. Now the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, he advocates for the scrapping of the 1987 Constitution. (Photo credit: ROMEO RANOCO/AFP/GettyImages)

Framers of the 1987 Constitution and a lawmaker slammed Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile’s recommendation to a Senate hearing to scrap the 1987 Constitution.

Enrile, who was the defense minister of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the chief implementer of martial law, told the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Wednesday (September 21) that one of the main problems of the 1987 Constitution is it removed the sole power to declare martial law to the President.

Ginulo nila ang martial law provision,” Enrile said.

(They [framers of the 1987 Constitution] messed up the martial law provision.)

Nung dineclare namin ang martial law, simple lang. (When we declared martial law, it was simple.) The Supreme Court cannot interfere. Nobody can interfere. The power of the President was absolute,” he added.

Enrile also echoed seasoned lawyer and Marcos Sr.’s solicitor general, Estelito Mendoza’s statement, that the “imminent danger” prerequisite for martial law shouldn’t have been removed from the 1987 Constitution.

Ang sinasabi ng 1935 Constitution at 1973 Constitution, ‘pag nakita mo na at nache-check mo sa sarili mong desisyon na ang bansa mo ay namemeligro na sasalakayin o wawasakin ng insurekto o ng rebelyon, gumalaw ka na. Gamitin mo ang kamay na bakal,” Enrile said.

(Under the 1935 and 1973 Constitution, if you see and could check based on your own judgment that your country is at risk of being invaded or destructed by insurrection or rebellion, you have to take action. Use the iron hand.)

For some of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and other lawmakers, Enrile’s “expert opinions” during the committee hearing are “unwise and very dangerous,” and an insult to thousands of martial law victims.

Insult to martial law victims

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said that not 100 days have passed since Marcos Jr. assumed office and yet, talks of expanding the powers of the Office of the President have already been becoming the talk of the town.

“This proposal spits on the graves of the thousands of martial law victims who died fighting for the Filipino people’s rights during Marcos Sr.’s regime,” said Brosas.

Wala pang 100 days na nakaupo sa pwesto ang mga Marcos at kanilang alipores, lumalabas na ang tunay na hangarin nito — ang pagsentralisa muli ng lahat ng kapangyarihan sa kamay ng pangulo,” Brosas added.

(Not 100 days have passed since Marcos Jr. and his ilk took office, and yet their true agenda is already showing — to centralize all powers in the hands of the president.)

The progressive solon also said that the government should not use the fear of rebellion and insurgency to concentrate powers on the president.

Hindi ito ang makakasagot sa matinding problema ng bansa, tulad ng malaganap na disempleyo at kahirapan, at kawalan ng pondo sa serbisyong panlipunan,” she said.

(This will not resolve the growing problems of the country, like rising unemployment, poverty, and lack of funding for basic social services.)

Brosas also pointed out how the 1935 Constitution was anti-women, as it did not provide the right to suffrage for women.

“It seems that the government seeks to silence women by erasing our landmark victory and depriving us of our right to vote. Napakalayo na ng inabante ng kilusang kababaihan, at hindi tayo papayag na paatrasin at tanggalan tayo muli ng mga karapatang dekada nating ipinaglaban,” she said.

(The women’s movement has already come a long way, and we will not permit that we would take steps backward, or deprive ourselves of the rights that we fought for decades.)

Unwise, very dangerous

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, former Commission on Elections Rene Sarmiento, who is also one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said that the current constitution was born out of many on-the-ground consultations with the people, and several constitutions.

“It is unwise, and very dangerous. If I may add, the statement is ridiculous. Why? The 1987 Constitution is based on our historical experience as a people. It is the fruit of many consultations in the Philippines - citywide, provincial and national consultations … It is based on several constitutions, the best practices,” Sarmiento said.

Although Sarmiento admitted that some provisions of the 1987 Constitution should be strengthened like the provisions on the political dynasty, party-list system, and the “protectionist” economic provisions, scrapping the 1987 Constitution altogether mustn’t be an option.

“We’re not in a period of a revolutionary period. There is no rebellion that threatens the republic. We have a period of stability. Possibly to amend yes, but to totally scrap the history of today … not in a period of calm and peace,” Sarmiento said.

Meanwhile, Atty. Christian Monsod, in an interview with ANC, said that we should learn our lesson of concentrating powers on one man.

“That cannot happen in a democracy … Inalis namin yung ‘imminent danger thereof’ tsaka ‘lawless violence’ kasi yung interpretation ng ‘imminent danger’ and ‘lawless violence’ is an issue by itself … ‘Imminent danger thereof’ is a very elastic term that can be misused and abused by a president greedy for power,” Monsod said.

(We removed the ‘imminent danger thereof’ and ‘lawless violence’ because the interpretation of the clauses is an issue by itself.)

​​Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates. The views expressed are his own.

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