Changing the Constitution: What are being proposed so fardesktop
We track the proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution, based on draft constitutions and proposed changes by the House of Representatives
MANILA, Philippines - More than 3 decades since its ratification, the 1987 Constitution seems poised for an overhaul.
Efforts are currently underway in Congress to revise the current Constitution, mainly to set up a federal form of government. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
Proposed revisions have been reflected in the following documents:
- Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) Number 8, which was consolidated in House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) Number 9
- Proposed Constitution by the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute (FI)
The House committee on constitutional amendments, split into 4 subcommittees, considered these inputs and presented summaries or salient features of its own proposals in mid-January 2018.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has set up a 19-member consultative body tasked to review the Constitution.
Here's a comparison of key proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution so far, based on RBH 8, PDP-Laban's draft, and the House subcommittee summaries.
This serves only as a tracker of proposed changes, and should not be seen as the final version of a revised Constitution.
This page will be updated as further changes come in.
Not listed below are minor revisions, such as the addition of the word "Federal" (as in "Federal Congress" or "Federal Supreme Court,” or variants of the phrase "Federal State and/or the Regions."
Phrases highlighted in light orange are the portions of the 1987 Constitution that are eyed for amendments, while those in yellow are new phrases or sections inserted in a draft charter. Texts in bold and italics are changes proposed by the House subcommittees, pending the release of a final version of the House's draft constitution.
So far, only the entirety of Article IV (or constitutional provisions on citizenship) is left untouched in all proposals.
In RBH 8, the phrase "more perfect society" would be replacing "a just and humane society." The new phrase is similar to that of the United States Constitution, where "more perfect Union" is used.
Article I: National Territory
All proposals emphasize our maritime claims, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that sets the rights and economic zones of its signatory countries.
This is to assert our country's rights over contested waters in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea. In July 2016, the Philippines won the arbitral case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration over China's controversial "9-dash line".
Article II: Declaration of Principles and State Policies
Type of state
RBH 8 borrows the word "indivisible" from the constitutions of Mexico and France to further classify the type of federal state that the Philippines will be. PDP-Laban's draft uses "democratic federal republic", while the House subcommittee's notes use a similar phrase as in RBH 8.
Law and order, anti-terrorism
Besides renouncing war as national (or regional) policy, the proposed Federal State would explicitly denounce terrorism in the draft charter in RBH 8 and in the notes of the House subcommittee, which also stress law and order.
All drafts promote additional items crucial to Filipinos' enjoyment of democracy.
The draft charter in RBH 8 and a House subcommittee's notes would instruct the first Congress under the Federal State to immediately enact a law banning political dynasties.
PDP-Laban's charter has the same provision for dynasties as in the 1987 Constitution, but the institute proposes a rewording "to make [the provision] self-executory." Provisions under the section for the Federal Commission on Elections would prohibit members of political dynasties to hold federal government positions.
The 1987 Constitution left it to Congress to craft such law, but none has been passed over the last 3 decades. (READ: Congress, not Constitution, is the problem – Monsod)
New, revised principles, policies
In RBH 8, a new section in Article II declares the federal state's commitment to take care of natural resources and ensure international order. Another mentions the intent to make the State "a drug-free country".
Meanwhile, many state principles and policies are revised in PDP-Laban's version and in the House subcommittee proposals. Among them: leaving out the phrase where the State should develop a national economy "effectively controlled by Filipinos".
Article III: Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights would largely be retained, except for changes in certain sections as introduced in RBH 8 (on freedom of movement between regions) and in a House proposal to limit the protection for freedom of speech..
Article V: Suffrage
The participation of overseas absentee voters is emphasized. In RBH 8, Congress/Parliament would also be tasked to prioritize, not just design, a law that would provide for a procedure where the disabled and the illiterate can vote without assistance.
Absentee voting is already provided for in Republic Act 9189. Meanwhile, Republic Act 10366 allows senior citizens and persons with disabilities to be assisted by relatives or poll officers.
Article VI: The Legislative Department
In all proposals, Congress would remain bicameral. In RBH 8, both houses would still be known by their current names, with almost the same roles.
But in PDP-Laban's draft charter and as proposed in the House, Congress would be called the Parliament, composed of the Senate and the Federal Assembly. The Prime Minister, head of the Federal Assembly, would have considerably bigger powers as head of government.
In RBH 8, up to 6 senators may represent each of the 18 regions, based on their population. Their terms will remain to be for 6 years, but the lowest vote-getter in each region in the first election under a new Constitution would only serve for 3 years.
In PDP-Laban's draft charter and as proposed by a House subcommittee, 3 senators would represent each region, with a term of 5 years each.
In their executive summary, PDP-Laban said the Senate's powers "shall be limited to the review of bills passed by the Federal Assembly."
RBH 8 proposal: House of Representatives retained
This draft constitution does not set a maximum number of district congressmen, unlike the current charter, which sets a limit of up to 250. (In the current 17th Congress, there are 238 legislative districts.) Thus, redistricting should be monitored if this provision would pass.
The period for possible reapportionment of districts would also be reduced to within one year following a census. The 250,000 population requirement for the creation of a district would remain, as well as the 20% seat allocation for party-list representatives.
The current Party List Law would become the constitutional basis for the election of representatives from marginalized sectors, until it is replaced by a new law.
PDP-Laban/House proposal: The Federal Assembly
In PDP-Laban's draft charter and based on the House proposal, the current House of Representatives would be transformed into the Federal Assembly, which would be the sole body initiating legislation. (In PDP-Laban's version, assemblymen could be elected to two 5-year terms, from the current 3 3-year terms.)
But there are differences between the two proposals. Among others, the Federal Assembly’s membership would be capped to 400 (in the PDP-Laban's draft) or 300 (in the House proposal). Sectoral representation would come from either a political party or the current party-list system. They also differ as to how many voters a city should have for a seat in the Assembly.
Dismissal of PM, dissolution of Federal Assembly
PDP-Laban's draft charter borrows a feature from other parliaments where the Prime Minister could be removed, and the President would appoint a new one. The Federal Assembly could also be dissolved; however, the Senate would still continue to function.
Scope of Federal Congress laws
The Federal Congress will have exclusive authority to craft laws on national security, declaration of war, foreign relations, customs (imports and exports) and quarantine, and other federal aspects of government.
Number of signatures for initiative, referendum
Laws passed by regional legislatures would be covered by an initiative or referendum. RBH 8 and the PDP-Laban draft charter differ, however, on the number of signatures needed and their sources.
Article VII: The Executive Department
RBH 8 introduced only a few amendments to the executive branch of government.
But in PDP-Laban's draft charter and as proposed in the House, the executive power would be "dispersed among the President, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Parliament and the Regional Governments" in a semi-presidential or hybrid parliamentary model.
The President would be the head of state of the federal republic, while the Prime Minister would be the head of government. The position of vice president, meanwhile, would be abolished.
The President on pardons, foreign loans
In RBH 8, there are only two changes so far concerning presidential powers: a clarification on which crimes the President can consider when pardoning convicts, and the requirement to get Congress' approval first before contracting foreign loans, with the Monetary Board only recommending such loans.
In PDP-Laban's draft, however, the power to secure foreign loans was transferred to the Prime Minister.
Other presidency-related amendments
Under the PDP-Laban draft charter, the President should be at least 45 years old (from the current 40), nominated by the Federal Assembly but still elected by voters to a term of 5 years, and could be reelected to a second term. His executive powers would be limited to areas of national defense and foreign affairs.
In case of a vacancy, the Senate President (or if he's unable to, the Speaker of the Federal Assembly) would serve as the President's successor.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet
In the PDP-Laban and House proposals, the Prime Minister – selected among members of the Federal Assembly – would be given most of the executive power as head of government. He would be assisted by his Cabinet, also chosen among Federal Assembly members, with concurrence by the Senate.
He would also be tasked to prepare the annual national budget, set the government's agenda, and appoint heads and officers of agencies (except those concerning national defense and foreign affairs). A House subcommittee also suggests that the power to appoint Supreme Court justices be given to the PM.
Article VIII: The Judicial Department
Limit the scope of judicial power
In a House proposal, a phrase supposedly referring to "judicial overreach" would be removed, a move that is seen to clip the judiciary's powers. This part, however, is retained in the two other draft charters.
Justices' age of retirement
The draft charter in RBH 8 raises the age of retirement of justices and judges to 75. PDP-Laban's charter retains the retirement age of 70, while a House proposal lowers it to 65.
Income tax-exempt justices, judges
All justices and judges would be exempted from paying income tax under RBH 8 and PDP-Laban's charter. This was reiterated in Section 15 of the Transitory Provisions in the charter in RBH 8, but mentioned only SC justices.
Regional Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals would be included in the Constitution, but its reorganization differs in the draft charters.
Judicial and Bar Council
In RBH 8, the Senate and the House would have one representative each in the Judicial and Bar Council. But in the PDP-Laban charter and in the House proposals, the JBC would be abolished.
Congress has been pushing for separate voting in JBC for years. Currently, Congress has only one seat in the JBC, so both houses are sitting alternately. This is due to a Supreme Court decision in 2012 that set this interpretation.
House proposal: Constitutional Court
A House proposal suggests setting up a Constitutional Court, which would decide on constitutional questions, electoral protests, and disputes between and among the levels of government under federalism.
Article IX: Constitutional Commissions
CHR as constitutional commission
From an independent office, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) would be classified as an independent constitutional commission in RBH 8 and in the House proposals, joining the Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections, and the Civil Service Commission. But CHR's composition will remain the same.
In the PDP-Laban draft, the CHR would remain as is in Article XIII. But a clause would also be added, expanding the CHR's mandate to cases where non-state actors are involved. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)
Commission members, functions
Except for the CHR, constitutional commissions would have expanded membership in the different proposals. A House subcommittee likewise revives proposals to revise the functions of the Comelec.
Development of political parties
PDP-Laban's draft charter would regulate and subsidize political parties, ban party-switching (or political turncoatism) and prohibit political dynasties.
Article X: Regional and Local Governments
Number of regions
RBH 8 lists down the 18 regions of the proposed Federal State. It can be revised by federal law and confirmed by affected people through a plebiscite. (The list of regions is also specified in Section 2 of Article II, under the Declaration of Federal State Principles and Policies.)
PDP-Laban's draft charter does not specify composition of the regions. But the institute's executive summary proposes 11 regions, "the composition of which shall be attached as an ordinance to the Constitution." (The Bangsamoro and Cordillera would immediately qualify as regions.) Changes to their composition should be in accordance with the local government code and also go through a plebiscite. (READ: How many states should PH have under federalism?)
In the House subcommittee proposal, there would be 5 states. They also use the term "state" instead of "region".
This is among the features of federalism its proponents are pushing forward: decentralizing government and granting the regions autonomy to conduct their affairs.
Scope of regional laws
The proposed drafts set the coverage of laws to be passed by regional legislatures. These are mostly on local matters related to their jurisdictions, like tourism, irrigation, and development planning.
The PDP-Laban and House proposals also describe concurrent powers between the federal and regional governments.
Regional Governor/Chief Minister
In RBH 8, the Regional Governor and Vice Governor would be directly elected. In the PDP-Laban and House proposals, the regional chief executive would be the Chief Minister or Premier, chosen by the Regional or State Assembly.
In RBH 8, the Regional Governor would appoint members of the Regional Assembly from among the nominated members of legislative bodies (board members or councilors) of each province or major city. The Governor would also initially appoint 3 sectoral members from marginalized groups to join the Assembly.
However, in the PDP-Laban and House proposals, members of the Regional/State Assemblies would be directly elected from the LGUs.
Sharing of taxes between national, regional govt's
The draft constitutions amend the shares of tax revenue going to the federal and regional governments.
PDP-Laban's draft leaves the percentages blank, but in its executive summary, it says that under its formula, 60% of national government revenue would be controlled by the regions and the remaining 40% by the federal government. Both charters also mandate the creation of a National Finance Commission and an equalization fund as a "block grant" for the regions.
Transition: Regional/State Commissions and Organic Acts
In the PDP-Laban and House proposals, the Parliament should enact a new Regional and Local Government Code within 18 months from ratification of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, there would be an interim government called a Regional or State Commission that would exist until the region is completely organized through an organic act or a state constitution.
For a minimum of 5 years (with PDP-Laban's executive summary of its draft charter saying up to 10 years), the incumbent governors and mayors of a region would serve as a collegial body, exercising executive and legislative powers, as well as drafting the organic act/state constitution that would be submitted to Parliament.
New governors and lawmakers would be elected in accordance with the organic act/state constitution.
Article XI: Accountability of Public Officers
In RBH 8, the Sandiganbayan would be reorganized, with each of its current 7 divisions distributed among 6 regions. Provisions concerning the anti-graft court were placed under Article VIII or the judicial branch.
In the PDP-Laban draft, the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Ombudsman would remain in their current form. But in a House subcommittee hearing on charter change, the Ombudsman's office is proposed to be abolished. The panel argues that its role "could be absorbed by the Department of Justice".
'Faster' impeachment process in the House
The drafts in RBH 8 and by PDP-Laban shorten the processing of an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives or Federal Assembly.
Article XII: National Economy and Patrimony
Foreign ownership rules
Under RBH 8, the limitations on foreign ownership of corporations, public utilities, educational institutions (or the “60-40 rule"), as well as of media and advertising entities would remain, but could be overruled by laws.
But in the PDP-Laban and House proposals, the "60-40" rule and other similar provisions would be removed altogether, leaving it up to Congress/Parliament to decide on the matter. However, two House subcommittee summaries conflict with each other when it comes to ownership of mass media and advertising firms.
RBH 8: Bigger BSP Monetary Board
In the draft in RBH 8, the composition of the Monetary Board, which governs the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), would be expanded to include regional representatives. The current set-up of BSP is retained in the other proposals.
Articles XIII to XV: Social Justice - Family
Articles merged, modified, transferred
Article XVI: General Provisions
Authority over police
In RBH 8, the authority over local police units would be vested in regional governors, from local executives in general under the 1987 Constitution.
In the PDP-Laban draft and House proposal, the police would be placed under the Prime Minister, but they differ on which local executives would have authority over local police units.
Article XVII: Amendments or Revisions
Separate voting by Congress on future amendments
The Senate and the House would be voting separately when Congress introduces changes to the Constitution. This removes the vagueness of the 1987 Constitution on what rule to follow regarding Charter Change proposals. Senators, who are outnumbered by House members, have been pushing for separate voting in the current set-up.
RBH 8: Number of signatures for people's initiative, excluded topics
In RBH 8, signatures needed for a people's initiative petition to change the Constitution should have at least 3% of voters from every region, not per congressional district. The PDP-Laban draft retains the provision in the 1987 Constitution.
A new section states that amendments concerning the integrity of the national territory, as well as the republican form of government, could not be subjected to any amendment.
Article XVIII: Transitory Provisions
As of this posting, PDP-Laban's draft constitution has yet to contain transitory provisions, saying in a footnote that these are still "under study."
Meanwhile, there are differences over some transitory provisions in the House, crafted by subcommittees 1 and 3.
Incumbent President, VP to stay until 2022
The first election for President (and for Vice President under RBH 8) under the draft charter will be in May 2022. Their terms would begin in June 2022. This avoids a disruption of their terms during the transition.
However, the two subcommittees offer different proposals on what would happen to the Vice President upon ratification of the draft charter.
Interim legislative branch
In RBH 8, as soon as the draft constitution is ratified by a majority of Filipinos, the current Congress would be dissolved, and the President would exercise temporary legislative powers until the Federal Congress is convened after the 2019 elections.
But in the House proposal, there would be an interim Parliament, composed of incumbent lawmakers who would serve until 2022.
In both cases, separation pay and benefits for affected Congress personnel are included.
Next Senate, local elections
In RBH 8's draft charter, the first elections for Congress and for local positions would proceed in May 2019.
But in the House proposal, the next polls for lawmakers and local officials are set for 2022.
RBH 8: MMDA dissolved
In RBH 8, the MMDA would be dissolved in favor of the authority of the governor of the National Capital Region as soon as he or she assumes office.
RBH 8: Shorter time to clear court dockets
If RBH 8's draft constitution is ratified, all courts – not just the Supreme Court – would be ordered to resolve within 6 months all cases that were pending before the effectivity of the new charter.
RBH 8: No income tax for top federal officials, lawmakers
In RBH 8, the President, Vice President, members of both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, and constitutional commission chiefs would be exempt from income tax.
Meanwhile, regional executives and lawmakers would have equivalent pay grades as their counterparts in national government, but with income tax.
But RBH 8 also says the Federal Congress can overturn this provision.