Why not a two-stage Charter change process? | Inquirer Opinion

Why not a two-stage Charter change process?

/ 05:01 AM December 22, 2023

The controversial issue of amending the present Charter had always been on the agenda of all our past administrations since the time of former president Fidel V. Ramos, but everything ended up in vain. Now the issue is alive again.

Not a few lawmakers have long argued that the 1987 Constitution needs amendment or revision to keep abreast with the changing times. Some sectors believe that changing the Charter at a time when the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic leaves much to be desired. There are concerns that the Charter change process is likely to be abused since one of the amendments being pushed through relates to changing the term limits of lawmakers.

Seemingly lost and wittingly or unwittingly ignored amid the hustle and bustle of these controversies is the naked truth that there inherently exists a keyless lock toward changing the present charter.


Consider this: The 1987 Constitution provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by (1) the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or (2) a constitutional convention.” To call a constitutional convention, meanwhile, requires a two-thirds vote of all members of Congress, meaning joint voting. This is the lock I wish to point out. The constitutionally mandated voting process applies to a government with a unicameral legislature, and ours is bicameral. And I call this lock rather keyless because this error is constitutionally provided and may not be corrected by mere legislation alone, as certain sectors may probably have in mind. Neither, in the worst and most unexpected scenario, may it be eliminated by mutual agreement between the senators and congressmen to vote separately in a constituent assembly. This error is that which primarily and essentially bars every legislative attempt for Charter change.


This brings me to my thesis. Let us buy some time by having a two-stage Charter change process, the first stage to happen now or before the next mid-term elections in 2025 and the second and final stage toward the 2028 national elections. To elaborate, Congress will immediately convene into a constitutional assembly with the Senate agreeing to a joint voting process, on condition that the only issue to be addressed is the correction of the aforementioned constitutional error, which correction will then be submitted to the people in a plebiscite simultaneous with the 2025 elections. I don’t think the Senate will disagree with this joint voting process, its sole purpose being clearly the least of its concerns. The next stage certainly needs no elaboration. That is to say, the real and honest-to-goodness amendment or revision to the 1987 Constitution may then be tackled more comprehensively and smoothly as soon as the existing Charter error has been corrected, and in a manner bereft of the many controversies haunting it at present.

RUDY CORONEL, Batangas City

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TAGS: Cha-cha, charter change, Constitution

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