Monday, December 04, 2006

Random Thoughts on Con Ass

1. On the power of the House of Representatives to amend its own rules for constituent assembly. While under Article VI, section 16 (3), each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, the said power is not absolute and is always subject to the limitations found in the Constitution itself. Further, as Fr. J. Bernas said in his commentary to the 1987 Constitution quoting Justice Story, “When, however, the legislative rule affects private rights, the courts cannot altogether be excluded. When the construction to be given to a rule affects persons other than the members of the legislature, the question presented is of necessity a judicial one.”[1]

2. Proposal of amendments

· Section 1 of Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution provides that amendments or revisions may be proposed either by Congress or by a Constitutional Convention.

· If proposal is to be made by Congress, the required vote is “three-fourths of all its members.” It should be understood that the two houses of congress vote separately.[2]

· When congress proposes amendments to the constitution, it is said that Senators and Members of the House of Representatives act, not as members of Congress, but as component elements of a constituent assembly. When acting as such, the members of Congress derive their authority from the Constitution.[3] Based on this Supreme Court decision therefore, members of Congress can be questioned for abusing the authority provided by the Constitution.

· This is not the first time that, the Supreme Court has ruled on the question on the powers of Congress to propose amendments to the constitution. In the case of Imbong vs. COMELEC,[4] the High Court laid down several doctrines, one of which provides as follows:

Congress, when acting as a Constituent Assembly pursuant to Article XV of the 1987 Constitution, has full and plenary authority to propose Constitutional amendments or to call a convention for the purpose, by a three-fourths vote of each House in joint session assembled, but voting separately.

3. What the House of Representatives is proposing is action not pursuant to any provision of the constitution. “A written constitution is susceptible of change in two ways: by revolution, which implies action not pursuant to any provision of the constitution itself; and by revision, which implies action pursuant to some procedural provision in the constitution.”[5]

Are we now therefore in a state of revolution, with the action being initiated by the House of Representatives?

4. The amendatory provisions are called a “constitution of sovereignty” because they define the constitutional meaning of “sovereignty of the people.”

[1] 1 Story Commentaries 840, quoted further with approval in Field vs. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 670 (1892)
[2] I Record of the 1987 Constitutional Commission, 375
[3] Gonzales vs. COMELEC, 21 SCRA 774, 837
[4] 35 SCRA 28 (1970)
[5] 50 SCRA 373-76 citing an article by Melville Fuller Weston entitled “Political Questions” published in 38 Harvard Law Review (1924-1925)