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THE PHILIPPINE

CONSTITUTION
• A. Nature of the Constitution.

• 1 Constitution defined. That body of rules and maxims in accordance with


which the powers of sovereignty are habitually exercised [Cooley,
Constitutional Limitations, p. 4]. With particular reference to the
Constitution of the Philippines: That written instrument enacted by direct
action of the people by which the fundamental powers of the government
are established, limited and defined, and by which those powers are
distributed among the several departments for their safe and useful
exercise for the benefit of the body politic [Malcolm, Philippine
Constitutional Law, p. 6].
• 2. Purpose. To prescribe the permanent framework of a system of
government, to assign to the several departments their respective
powers and duties, and to establish certain first principles on
which the government is founded [11 Am. Jur. 606].
• 3. Classification:

• a) Written or unwritten. Awritten constitution is one whose precepts are


embodied in one document or set of documents; while an unwritten
constitution consists of rules which have not been integrated into a single,
concrete form but are scattered in various sources, such as statutes of a
fundamental character, judicial decisions, commentaries of publicists, customs
and traditions, and certain common law principles [Cruz, Constitutional Law,
pp. 4-5].
• b) Enacted (Conventional) or Evolved (Cumulative^. A
conventional constitution is enacted, formally struck off at a
definite time and place following a conscious or deliberate effort
taken by a constituent body or ruler; while a cumulative
constitution is the result of political evolution, not inaugurated at
any specific time but changing by accretion rather than by any
systematic method [Cruz, ibid., p. 5].
• c) Rigid or Flexible. A rigid Constitution is one that can be
amended only by a formal and usually difficult process; while a
flexible Constitution is one that can be changed by ordinary
legislation [Cruz, ibid., p. 5].
• 4. Qualities of a good written Constitution:

• a) Broad. Not just because it provides for the organization of the entire government and covers all persons and
things within the territory ofthe State but because it must be comprehensive enough to provide for every
contingency.

• b) Brief. It must confine itself to basic principles to be implemented with legislative details more adjustable to
change and easier to amend.

• c) Definite. To prevent ambiguity in its provisions which could result in confusion and divisiveness among the
people [Cruz, ibid,, pp. 5-6],


• 5. Essential parts of a good written Constitution:

• a) Constitution of Liberty. The series of prescriptions setting forth


the fundamental civil and political rights of the citizens and
imposing limitations on the powers of government as a means of
securing the enjoyment of those rights, e.g., Art. III.
• b) Constitution of Government. The series of provisions outlining
the organization of the government, enumerating its powers,
laying down certain rules relative to its administration, and
defining the electorate, e.g., Arts. VI, VII, VIII and IX.
• c) Constitution of Sovereignty. The provisions pointing out the
mode or procedure in accordance with which formal changes in
the fundamental law may be brought about, e.g., Art. XVII.
• 6. Interpretation/Construction of the Constitution.

• a) In Francisco v. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261,


November 10, 2003, the Supreme Court made reference to the use
of well- settled principles of constitutional construction, namely:
First, verba leais.
• i. e., whenever possible, the words used in the Constitution must
be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are
employed. As the Constitution is not primarily a lawyer’s
document, it being essential for the rule of law to obtain that it
should ever be present in the people’s consciousness, its language
as much as possible should be understood in the sense they have a
common use. Second, where there is ambiguity, ratio leqis et
anima. The words of the Constitution should be interpreted in
accordance with the intent of the framers.
• Thus, in Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, 194 SCRA
317, it was held that the Court in construing a Constitution should
bear in mind the object sought to be accomplished and the evils
sought to be prevented or remedied. A doubtful provision shall be
examined in light of the history of the times and the conditions
and circumstances under which the Constitution was framed.
• Third, ut maais valeat auam pereat. i.e., the Constitution has to
beinterpreted as a whole. In Civil Liberties Union, it was declared
that sections bearing on a particular subject should be considered
and interpreted together as to effectuate the whole purpose of
the Constitution and one section is not to be allowed to defeat
another, if by any reasonable construction, the two can be made
to stand together.

• b) If, however, the plain meaning of the word is not found to be
clear, resort to other aids is available. Again in Civil Liberties Union,
supra., it was held that while it is permissible to consult the debates
and proceedings of the constitutional convention in order to arrive at
the reason and purpose of the resulting Constitution, resort thereto
may be had only when other guides fail as said proceedings are
powerless to vary the terms of the Constitution when the meaning is
clear. We think it safer to construe the Constitution from what
“appears upon its face”. The proper interpretation, therefore,
depends more on how it was understood by the people adopting it
than in the framers’ understanding thereof.
• c) In case of doubt, the provisions should be considered
selfexecuting; mandatory rather than directory; and prospective
rather than retroactive.

• d) Self-executing provisions. A provision which lays down a general


principle 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 a
sufficient rule by means of which the right it grants may be
enjoyed or protected, is self-executing.
• i) 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 [Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, G.R. No. 122156, February
03, 1997].
• ' ii) Section 26, Article II of the Constitution neither bestows a
right nor elevates the privilege to the level of an enforceable
right. Like the rest of the policies enumerated in Article II, the
provision does not contain any judicially enforceable
constitutional right but merely specifies a guideline for legislative
or executive action. The disregard of this provision does not give
rise to any cause of action before the courts [Pamatong v.
Comelec, G.R. No. 161872, April 13, 2004].