Political Law Part I – Definitions & Concepts

POLITICAL LAW PART I

DEFINITIONS & CONCEPTS

1.   Define: a. Political Law—is that branch of public law which deals with the organization and operations of the governmental organs of the State and defines the relations of the State with the inhabitants of its territory. (PEOPLE VS. PERFECTO, 43 Phil. 887)

b.   Constitutional Law

c.   Constitution

d.   Administrative Law

e.   Law of Public Officers

f.   Law on Public Corporations

g.   Election Law

h.   Distinction between Political Law and Constitutional Law

2. Read: MACARIOLA VS. JUDGE ASUNCION, 114 SCRA 77

The  provision  in the Code of Commerce which prohibits judges, justices, etc., (public officers) from engaging in business within the territorial jurisdiction of their courts is political in nature and therefore, said provision was deemed abrogated when there was a change of sovereignty from Spain to the United States at the turn of the century. Political laws are deemed abrogated if there is a change of sovereignty and unless re-enacted under the new sovereign, the same is without force and effect.

3. The Supremacy of the Constitution

     Read: 1. MUTUC VS. COMELEC, 36 SCRA 228

2. MANILA PRINCE HOTEL VS. GSIS, 267 SCRA 408

A constitution is a system of fundamental laws for the governance and administration of a nation. It is supreme, imperious, absolute and unalterable except by the authority from which it emanates. It has been defined as the fundamental and paramount law of the nation.  It prescribes the permanent framework of a system of government, assigns to the different departments their respective powers and duties, and establishes certain fixed principles on which government is founded. The fundamental conception in other words is that it is a supreme law to which all other laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights must be determined and all public authority administered.

Under the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, if a law or contract violates any norm of the constitution that law or contract whether promulgated by the legislative or by the executive branch or entered into by private persons for private purposes is null and void and without any force and effect. Thus, since the Constitution is the fundamental, paramount and supreme law of the nation, it is deemed written in every statute and contract.

Admittedly, some constitutions are merely declarations of policies and principles. Their provisions command the legislature to enact laws and carry out the purposes of the framers who merely establish an outline of government providing for the different departments of the governmental machinery and securing certain fundamental and inalienable rights of citizens.  A provision which lays down a general principle, such as those found in Art. II of the 1987 Constitution, is usually not self-executing. But a provision, which is complete in itself and becomes operative without the aid of supplementary or enabling legislation, or that which supplies sufficient rule by means of which the right it grants may be enjoyed or protected, is self-executing. Thus a constitutional provision is self-executing if the nature and extent of the right conferred and the liability imposed are fixed by the constitution itself, so that they can be determined by an examination and construction of its terms, and there is no language indicating that the subject is referred to the legislature for action.

4. Kinds of Constitution

a) written or unwritten

b) rigid and flexible

c) cumulative or conventional

5. AMENDMENT OR REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION (Art. XVII)

Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

[1] The Congress upon a vote of ¾ of all its Members; or

[2] A constitutional Convention.

Section 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voter therein. No amendment under this Section shall be authorized within five (5) 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.

Section 3. The Congress, by a vote of 2/3 of all its members, cal a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

Section 4. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.

Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not later than ninety days after the certification by the COMELEC of the sufficiency of the petition.

NOTE: Amendments to, or revision of the Constitution is VALID only when approved by a majority of the votes cast during the plebiscite, not by the votes of the Members of Congress.

2. Read: R.A. 6735

Requisites for a valid people’s initiative to amend the Constitution; distinctions between amendment and revision.

RAUL L. LAMBINO and ERICO B. AUMENTADO , together with 6,327,952 registered voters vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, G.R. No. 174153, October 25, 2006, 505 SCRA 160

Carpio, J.

Facts:

Petitioners filed a Petition for Initiative and Referendum with the COMELEC to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution, particularly Articles VI and VII to replace the present Presidential-Bicameral system of government to Parliamentary-Unicameral system using Section 2, Art. XVII of the Constitution. Petitioners claim that their petition was signed by 6,327,952 million voters all over the country and the same constitutes over 12% of all the registered voters in the entire country and that more than 3% of the registered voters in every legislative district signed the same in accordance with Section 2, Art. XVII of the Constitution. The petition to change the Constitution involves sections 1-7 of Article VI; Sections 1-4 of Article VII and an Article XVII entitled “Transitory Provisions”.  The petitioners prayed with the COMELEC that after due publication of their Petition, the COMELEC should submit the following proposition in a plebiscite for the voters’ ratification:

DO YOU APPROVE THE AMENDMENT OF ARTICLES VI AND VII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION, CHANGING THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL BICAMERAL TO A UNICAMERAL-PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM, AND PROVIDING ARTICLE XVIII AS TRANSITORY PROVISIONS FOR THE ORDERLY SHIFT FROM ONE SYSTEM TO THE OTHER?

The COMELEC dismissed the petition citing SANTIAGO VS. COMELEC, 270 SCRA 106 where it was held that:

RA 6735 intended to include the System of Initiative on Amendments to the Constitution, but is, unfortunately, Inadequate to cover that system under Section 2, Art. XVII of the Constitution. x x x .

The foregoing brings us to the conclusion that RA 6735 is incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on this substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by “empowering” the COMELEC to promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry the purposes of this act.

Considering the said dismissal, petitioners elevated the matter to the Supreme Court on Certiorari and Mandamus alleging rave abuse of discretion and to set aside the COMELEC’ Decision and to compel the latter to give due course to their initiative petition.

The Issues:

1.           WHETHER THE LAMBINO GROUP’S PETITION COMPLIES WITH SECTION 2, ARTICLE XVII OF THE CONSTITUTION ON AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION THROUGH PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE;

2.           WHETHER THE COURT SHOULD REVISIT ITS RULING IN DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO VS. COMELEC, DECLARING THAT RA NO. 6735 “INCOMPLETE, INADEQUATE OR WANTING IN ESSENTIAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS” TO IMPLEMENT THE INITIATIVE CLAUSE ON PROPOSALS TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION; and

3.           WHETHER THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN DENYING DUE COURSE TO THE LAMBINO GROUP’S PETITION.

H E L D:

There is no merit to the petition.

The Lambino group miserably failed to comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution for conducting a people’s initiative. Thus, there is even no need to revisit Santiago, as the present petition warrants dismissal based alone on the  Lambino Group’s glaring failure to comply with the basic requirements of the Constitution. As such, there is likewise no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC.

Section 2, Article XVII of the Constitution is the governing constitutional provision that allows a people’s initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution. This Section provides:

“Section 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be DIRECTLY PROPOSED BY THE PEOPLE  through initiative upon a petition of at least  twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3%)  of the registered voters therein.”

The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention vividly explain the meaning of the amendment “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition”. Thus:

MR. RODRIGO: Let us look at the mechanics. Let us say some voters want to propose a constitutional  amendment. IS THE DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT READY TO BE SHOWN TO THE PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE ASKED TO SIGN?

MR. SUAREZ. That can be reasonably assumed, Madam President.

MR. RODRIGO: What does the sponsor mean? The draft is ready and shown to them before they sign? Now, who prepares the draft?

MR. SUAREZ: The people themselves, Madam President…As it is envisioned, any Filipino can prepare that proposal and pass it around for signature.

Clearly, the framers of the Constitution intended that the “draft of the proposed constitutional amendment” should be  “ready and shown” to the people “before they sign such proposal”. The framers plainly stated that “before they sign there is already a draft shown to them.” The framers also “envisioned” that the people should sign on the proposal itself because the proponents must “prepare the proposal and pass it around for signature.”

The essence of amendments “directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition” IS THAT THE ENTIRE PROPOSAL ON ITS FACE IS A PETITION BY THE PEOPLE. This means two (2) essential elements must be present:

1.           The people must author and must sign the entire proposal. No agent or representative can sign for and on their behalf;

2.           As an initiative upon a petition, THE PROPOSAL MUST BE EMBODIED IN A PETITION.

These essential elements are present only if the full text of the proposed amendments is first shown to the people who will express their assent by signing such complete proposal in a petition. Thus, an amendment is “DIRECTLY PROPOSED BY THE PEOPLE THROUGH INITIATIVE UPON A PETIITON “ ONLY IF THE PEOPLE SIGN ON A PETITION THAT OCNTAINS THE FULL TEXT OF THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS.

The petitioners bear the burden of proving that they complied with the constitutional requirements in gathering the signatures—that the petition contained, or incorporated by attachment, the full text of the proposed amendments.

The Lambino Group did not attach to their present petition a copy of the  document containing the proposed amendments and as such,  the people signed    initiative petition without knowing the actual amendments proposed in the said initiative. Instead , the alleged 6.3 million people  who signed the petition had to rely the representations of Atty. Lambino. Clearly, Atty. Lambino and his group deceived the 6.3 million signatories, and even the entire nation.

2. A people’s   initiative  to change the Constitution applies only to an amendment of the Constitution and not to its revision. In contrast, Congress and a Constitutional Convention can propose both amendments and revisions to the Constitution. This is clear under Section 1 of  Art. XVII of the Constitution.

Where the intent and language of the Constitution under Section 2 of Art. XVIII clearly withhold from the people the power to propose revisions to the Constitution, the people cannot propose revisions even as they are empowered to propose amendments. The two are distinguished as follows:

“Revision” is the  alterations of the different portions of the entire document [Constitution]. It may result in the rewriting whether the whole constitution, or the greater portion of it, or perhaps some of its important provisions. But whatever results the revision may produce, the factor that characterizes it as an act of revision is the original intention and plan authorized to be carried out. That intention and plan must contemplate a consideration of all the provisions of the Constitution to determine which one should be altered or suppressed or whether the whole document should be replaced with an entirely new one.

“Amendment” of the Constitution, on the other hand, envisages a change or only a few specific provisions. The intention of an act to amend is not to consider the advisability of changing the entire constitution or of considering that possibility. The intention rather is to improve specific parts of the existing constitution or to add to it provisions deemed essential on account of changed conditions or to suppress portions of it that seem obsolete, or dangerous, or misleading in their effect.

MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO,   et al. Vs. COMELEC,   G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997 & June 10, 1997

RA 6735 intended to include the System of Initiative on Amendments to the Constitution, but is, unfortunately, Inadequate to cover that system. Section 2 Art. XVII is not self-executory and unless Congress provides for its implementation , it would remain in the cold niche of the Constitution. RA 6735 in all its 23 sections mentions the word “Constitution” only in section 2 and Section 3 as compared to the initiative on “statutes” and local legislation. The foregoing brings us to the conclusion that RA 6735 is incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on this substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by “empowering” the COMELEC to promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry the purposes of this act.

Enumerate the steps to be followed and the requisites to be met in order that the people may proposed the amendments, repeal, amend  or enact  a law or provision of the Cnstitution.

3. What are the different modes of amending the constitution? Distinguish “Revision” from “amendment” of the Constitution.

“Revision” is the  alterations of the different portions of the entire document [Constitution]. It may result in the rewriting whether the whole constitution, or the greater portion of it, or perhaps some of its important provisions. But whatever results the revision may produce, the factor that characterizes it as an act of revision is the original intention and plan authorized to be carried out. That intention and plan must contemplate a consideration of all the provisions of the Constitution to determine which one should be altered or suppressed or whether the whole document should be replaced with an entirely new one.

“Amendment” of the Constitution, on the other hand, envisages a change or only a few specific provisions. The intention of an act to amend is not to consider the advisability of changing the entire constitution or of considering that possibility. The intention rather is to improve specific parts of the existing constitution or to add to it provisions deemed essential on account of changed conditions or to suppress portions of it that seem obsolete, or dangerous, or misleading in their effect. (SINCO, Vicente, PHILIPPINE POLITICAL LAW)

4. Read: a) MABANAG vs. LOPEZ VITO, 78 Phil. 1

                b) GONZALES vs. COMELEC, 21 SCRA 774

                   There is no prohibition for Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution and at the same time call for the convening of a Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution. The word “or” in the provision “…Congress, upon a vote of ¾ of all its members; OR [2] A constitutional Convention” under Section 1, Art. XVII  also means “AND”.

                c) TOLENTINO vs. COMELEC, 41 SCRA 702

          “Doctrine of Proper Submission” means all the proposed amendments to the Constitution shall be presented to the people for the ratification or rejection at the same time, not piecemeal.

                d) SANIDAD vs. COMELEC, 73 SCRA 333

                e) ALMARIO vs. ALBA, 127 SCRA 69

          If the question regarding the proposed amendment to the Constitution deals with its “necessity, expediency or wisdom”, the same is political in nature and beyond the power of the courts to decide.

             f) MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO VS. COMELEC, 270 ACRA 106

 

Reference:

Political Law Reviewer by Atty. Larry D. Gacayan

College of Law, University of the Cordilleras

Baguio City

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About Magz

First of all, I am not a lawyer. I'm a graduate of AB Political Science and went to the College of Law but stopped going to law school for some reasons. I'm a passionate teacher who has been teaching English to speakers of other languages and a person who likes writing and blogging. I lost some important files and software when my computer broke down so the reason I created this website is to preserve the notes, reviewers and digests I collected when I was at the law school and at the same time, I want to help out law students who do not have enough time to go and read books in the library.

Posted on May 9, 2011, in Political Law and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Magz, I’m a first year law student and what you have just posted is helpful. tanks:-)

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