The 1987 Philippine Constitution, the basic law of the land, is once again in the limelight after a seemingly concerted effort to have it amended has suddenly gained traction thru the so called Peoples Initiative. The Constitution that is sought to be amended provides in Article XVII, Section 2 thereof, “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be
directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of
registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered
votes therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.

The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.” This “Peoples Initiative clause” also provides that Congress, meaning both the Lower House and Upper House, shall have to come up with implementing rules and regulations so that this important manifestation of the people’s right is realized. And so in 1987 an enabling law was introduced to give flesh and substance to the peoples initiative called the Initiative and Referendum Act and passed by the Eighth Congress of the Philippines in 1989. The enabling law provided for the peoples right to initiate a petition so that the Constitution can be amended.

The problem was the Supreme Court decided that the procedures embodied in the Initiative and Referendum Act
of 1989 for amending the Constitution was fatally defective. In other words, it was back to square one is so far as an enabling law for peoples initiative was concerned. Subsequently other kinds of so called peoples initiative was
attempted during the later years such as the 1997 Peoples Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action, and the 2006 Sigaw ng Bayan, but ultimately all of these initiatives failed. The plan to change the Constitution is not a new
thing considering that in almost all past administrations of the government there have always been attempts by certain groups to change the contents of the basic law of the land.

Now the Constitution actually provides for three modes of changing or revising the said law. In Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution it provides that Congress upon a three-fourths vote of all its members and thus acting as a Constituent Assembly can change the Law, or by a twothirds vote by all of its members call for a constitutional
convention, and Congress may also submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention by a majority vote of all its members. In this move of amending the Constitution the selected members of the Constitutional Convention, and not the members of Congress, shall propose the amendments or revisions to the law.

And the final mode which is the peoples initiative where amendments to the Constitution may be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, and every legislative district must be represented by at least twelve percent of the registered voters in that district. It must be made clear that in attempting to change the Constitution it can only be done through an amendment or
revision. Now they are not synonymous because amendment, “generally refers to a change of specific provisions
within the Constitution. These changes could be as minor as the alteration of a single word or phrase, or as substantial as the addition or removal of an entire section or article.

However, the scope of an amendment is limited, in that it does not alter the overall framework or structure of the
Constitution.” Upon the other hand revision involves a comprehensive change that affects the basic framework or
structure of the Constitution. This could include changes to the form of government, the powers vested in each branch, or the way representation is established. Unlike amendments, revisions often require a more rigorous process of approval, which usually involves convening a constitutional assembly or a constitutional convention.”
( features/amendment-versusrevision-philippines) So if the latest move to change the Constitution through a peoples initiative becomes successful only minor changes can be made upon the basic law of the land.

However given the already many failed attempts to amend the Constitution through so called initiatives there is a distinct possibility that the latest move will undergo a very difficult journey to achieve its purpose. In the meantime, Albay representative and Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Lower House of Congress claimed thru the media that the proponents of the peoples initiative for charter change have already surpassed the needed number of signatures nationwide to propose amendments to the Constitution and that more than twelve percent of all registered voters nationwide have already signed the petition for constitutional amendments. Let us see if the latest dance of cha-cha succeeds.

Amianan Balita Ngayon