Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – A provision granting the Philippine president the power to declare a state of war was excluded in the latest printed version of the Consultative Committee's draft federal constitution.
The June 18 draft seen by Rappler shows the provision was changed such that Congress will have the sole power to declare a state of war, as is the case in the present Constitution.
"The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war," reads the first part of Section 23 under the draft charter.
A sub-committee had previously proposed to give the president the power to make the declaration if Congress is "unable to convene."
The earlier proposed provision, presented to media on May 3, read: "In the event Congress is unable to convene, the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the power to declare the existence of the state of war, and shall exercise all powers necessary."
A state of war could provide basis for a president to declare martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, for example.
In place of the proposed provision, the Con-Com decided to be more vague in the kind of powers the president will be given if Congress is unable to convene due to war or a national emergency.
The second sentence states that in such a situation, the president "shall exercise all powers necessary to cope with the situation."
The word "cope," however, may be replaced with a more operative word, as Con-Com chairman Reynato Puno had raised concerns with the term.
The next line states that once Congress reconvenes, "it may revoke such exercise of powers of the President through a resolution."
When the provision taking away Congress' exclusive powers to declare a state of war was presented to media, there were questions on how it could be abused by a president.
A wily chief executive could, for instance, order the arrest members of Congress to make it impossible for them to convene, and then use the situation to declare a state of war.
Con-Com member and former Supreme Court justice Antonio Nachura said such a scenario is "possible" but not "probable." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.