May 23, 2024

I like the positivity of House Speaker Martin Romualdez. He is quite adamant about his advocacy in amending the 1987 Constitution via People’s Initiative despite the staunch opposition from several sectors, especially from the President who made no reservation that he does not want any amendment.
Although I agree with the Speaker about the necessity of amending the Constitution, I cannot help but wonder why he has to select the most difficult route in doing so.
There are three ways of amending the Constitution. First is by a Constitutional Assembly, second is by a Constitutional Convention, and third is by People’s Initiative.
The third is the one being proposed by the Speaker to be the method availed of in amending the Constitution. As to why, I can only speculate.
Amendment by Constitutional Assembly is done by an act of Congress whereby it convenes itself together with the Senate to form an assembly to tackle the proposed amendments. All proposed amendments must be voted upon by three-fourths of all members of Congress and Senate voting separately.
Amendment by Constitutional Assembly was not selected because among those being proposed by Congress is the removal of the right of the Senate to vote separately. If this is ratified, it will threaten the power of the Senate to exercise its discretion in approving or disapproving any amendment. It might, in fact, threaten the Senate’s very existence. And because of this, the Senators are opposing any amendment of the constitution.
Amendment by Constitutional Convention is done by Congress by calling a convention among representatives from different sectors of society who shall be tasked to make the proposals. The convention can be called by Congress only by a vote of two-thirds of all its members.
A Constitutional Convention may also be called upon majority vote of Congress calling for a plebiscite for the people to approve or disapprove the calling of a Constitutional Convention.
Though the second mode of amending the Constitution does not require the participation of the Senate, Constitutional Convention is tedious and expensive process. If the Constitutional Convention is approved, intellectual delegates must be elected at random.
The proposals that are drafted are then submitted to the people in a referendum called for that purpose. The calling of the convention, the plebiscite, the selection of the delegates, and the referendum necessarily carry with it a major appropriation in the budget. Besides, the process may take a while. By the time the first step is completed, another administration may have already been elected in office. Thus, this mode of amending the constitution was also scrapped.
The third mode of amending the Constitution is by People’s Initiative. This occurs when a petition is made by the people themselves to amend the Constitution. The petition must bear the signatures of at least 12 percent of all registered voters. From those signatures, three percent of each legislative district must be represented.
While this mode of amending the Constitution is also tedious, it is less expensive. Local leaders have full control of their constituents. They can easily solicit the number of signatures required. People’s Initiative need not deal with any opposition since it is an act of the people and by the people.
Politically, it’s expeditious, less burdensome, and is well within the control and dictates of the proponents. No wonder, this is what Romualdez is following.
Yet the move to amend the Constitution, by whatever means possible, is highly improbable at this point. It is perceived that it is promoted solely to protect and preserve the self-interest of our leaders.
Several past presidents have exerted earnest efforts in the past to amend the constitution to attune its provisions to current norms and development. All of them failed. Will Romualdez succeed where others failed?
Only time and politics can tell.