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HomeFeatureConstitutional Amendment: Is it Obligatory, An Urgent Necessity, a Redundancy, or a Non...

Constitutional Amendment: Is it Obligatory, An Urgent Necessity, a Redundancy, or a Non Sequitur?

By Virgilio L. Leyretana, Sr.

Part I

Background

A Constitution, as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, is: 

“In public law, the organic and fundamental law of a nation or a state, which may be written or unwritten, establishing the  character and conception of its government, laying the basic principles to which the internal life is to be conformed, organizing the government, and regulating, distributing, and limiting the functions of its different departments and prescribing the extent and  manners of the exercise of sovereign powers. 

In a more general sense, any fundamental or important law or edict, as the novel Constitution of the Justinian; the Constitution of Clarendon.”

On the other hand, as defined in constitutional law:

    “The Constitution (1987) is the fundamental law

      of the land in the Philippines.  It establishes its

      structure, policies, rules and duties of the Philippines

      Government.  It contains the Bill of Rights (Article III),

      and  sets out the state’s obligation to promote and uphold 

      social justice and human rights (Article XII).”

The purpose and aims of adopting the 1987 Philippine Constitution is encapsulated in the Preamble, as follows:

          “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of 

            the Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane 

            society, and establish a Government that shall embody    

            our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, 

            conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to   

            ourselves and our posterity the blessings of 

            independence and democracy under the rule of law and

            a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and 

            peace. . .” 

Constitutionalists, jurists, legal scholars, and law advocates  maintain that, as the supreme law of the land, a Constitution is not promulgated by Congress in the same manner ordinary laws are promulgated.

This explains why the Preamble begins with the opening “We the People”.  This phrase means that it is not just the framers of the Constitution or the Congressmen and Senators or the legislators who were given power by the government.

The phrase “We the People” is a reminder that all of the powers of the government emanates from the citizens of the country. This is also construed to mean that the government created by the Constitution derives its sovereignty or power from the people.

Various jurisprudence also show that, the clause “supreme law of the land” is taken to mean that when the laws passed by the state legislature or the Congress are found to conflict with the federal Constitution, they have no force” and effect. This, probably, what prompted Abraham Lincoln to caution:

      “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. 

          That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard to our civil liberties.”

The emphasis on the importance of the Constitution ensures that those who make the decision on behalf of the people fairly represent public opinion. It is, probably, in the light of the foregoing premises that Abraham Lincoln was prompted to say:

     ”We the people are the masters of Congress and judicial 

       Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow 

       the men who pervert the Constitution.”

Part II

The Theatre of War

As I write this, the world is submerged in the quagmire  of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, as the consequence of the horrible Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the infernal war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

While the world nervously ponders the future of these intractable wars, Ukraine is in a surrealistic situation.  Without support from NATO, with the European Union financial support blocked by Hungary, while the West seems stymied to extend assistance, and with American additional aid stalled in bipartisan political gridlock in the U.S. Congress, Ukraine is agonizing in perplexity how else to respond to the aggressive and continued Russia aggression.  

Meanwhile, the brutal Israel-Hamas war is spreading across borders between Israel and Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.  This historic internecine war is intersecting now with other Middle East conflicts.

With Iran purportedly supporting the militias, believing that it can protect  the Palestinians against Israel, and with proteges, like the Houthis wreaking havoc on container ships transporting supplies of crude oil, gas, fertilizers, wheat and agricultural commodities, and obstructing freedom of International navigation across the Panama Canal, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea will be, inevitably, embroiled in this historic war. 

Experts analysis show that, unless a mutually acceptable and satisfying path to peace can be agreed soonest, this violent conflict could engulf the Middle East region and, possibly, trigger a cataclysmic war that could become the next Armageddon.

However and whatever the future of this genocidal conflicts, it becomes a litmus test for democracy.  This is also a crucible for America’s leadership and credibility.  The world is watching closely whether the United States can sustain its influence and continue providing protective shields or security umbrellas to its friends and allies. 

Complicating the fragile situation is the tense relations between the United States and Russia, and the accelerating deterioration of America and China relations.

The latter adamantly insists that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.  While America underscores that it is not supporting the independence of Taiwan, it continues to supply weapons through commercial sales to Taiwan, to enhance its defense and security against possible attack by China.

Compounding the imploding situation is North Korea’s provocative firing of its latest and biggest missiles amidst the increasing tension with South Korea and the United States.   Accordingly, these new breed of missiles could hit targets as far away as 9,000 miles as Guam and the Okinawa Islands of Japan, including the U.S. mainland.

This egotistical exhibition of hypersonic missiles by North Korea, may have been encouraged by its deepening alliance with Russia and its Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty with the People’s Republic of China.  This intimidating display of powerful weaponry by North Korea, thus triggered an eerie feeling that is now pervading the atmosphere worldwide.

The emissions from these internecine conflicts have inescapably impacted across the globe. Obviously, it has impeded and disrupted the world supply chain and production timelines worldwide.

The impact triggered increases in prices of crude oil and vital commodities beyond affordable levels, thus compromising food security for the whole world, especially for countries who cannot produce food for its constituencies.  From the context of the world’s interdependence and interconnectivity, no country, including the Philippines, can isolate and be immune from its collateral damages.

Located at the confluence of maritime International trade routes in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has become a prisoner of geography.  Given its position in the West Philippine Sea, it has been canalized into a territorial trap or in a geographic straight jacket. As the crossroad of the strategic geographic, economic, political and security competition between America and China in the  South East Asia and Indo-Pacific Region, the Philippines has become hostage of the deepening and tense enmity between America and China.

The confluence of instabilities and uncertainties now obtaining is pushing the world to the brink of destruction. Thus, in a speech during the recently concluded Munich Security Conference,  the UN Secretary General was prompted to warn that “our world still faces nuclear dangers and . . . we are also dealing with the existential challenges of the climate crisis and the risks of uncontrolled artificial intelligence”. 

The writer is the Former Undersecretary and Chairman, of the  Mindanao Development Council (MedCO)

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