Quezon on the 5 Philippine Republics

/ 11:17 PM March 18, 2013

Manolo Quezon, Malacañang’s resident thinker, was kind enough to respond in detail to my column questioning the constitutional basis or historical warrant for the 5th Republic. Since his reply is over twice as long as our letters page permits, I am running it in this space; however, I have had to delete about two paragraphs’ worth of detail to make it all fit:

… [W]hat is produced by the government is bound by what the government itself has proclaimed to be its official history. Official history is more rigid in many ways, than the free-flowing and thought-provoking debate among those interested in Philippine history. Official history is bound by Philippine laws and executive issuances, which dictate official policy or the public consensus on historical questions.


As it stands, the 1st Philippine Republic established in Malolos is the first, because it is held to be the culmination of the Philippine Revolution, which began with the Katipunan and led to the Proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898…

Nery pointed out that the Philippine Republics were all inaugurated following the creation and adoption of a Constitution, with the notable exception of the 3rd Republic, which continued under the 1935 Constitution. It is worth noting that the transition of the Commonwealth of the Philippines to the 3rd Republic is specified in the 1935 Constitution itself. Article 17, Section 1… states that “upon the complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States and the proclamation of Philippine independence, the Commonwealth of the Philippines shall thenceforth be known as the Republic of the Philippines.”


This explains why after Philippine independence was officially recognized by other nations on July 4, 1946, the occasion was marked by President Manuel Roxas retaking his oath as President of the Philippines. The end of the transitional Commonwealth and the establishment of a new (permanent) regime also necessitated a shift in the naming of legislation from Commonwealth Acts to Republic Acts, as well [as] in a renumbering of President Roxas’ executive issuances, which would begin with a new count from Executive Order No. 1 on July 4, 1946…

The 2nd Republic is also a thorny issue in Philippine history, generally considered a  de  facto  and not a  de  jure  government both by public opinion at the time and in many scholarly and popular accounts, but officially recognized as a valid regime since the Macapagal administration. Yet this recognition taught in school is contradicted by law. Following the end of the Second World War, the acts and issuances of the 2nd Republic would be voided by Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s proclamation on October 23, 1944 (as military authority reestablishing the Commonwealth Government on Philippine soil in Tacloban, Leyte), and the Supreme Court in its decision in Cham v. Keh and Dizon on June 6, 1945…

However, the official policy is to recognize the 2nd Republic since the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal in the ’60s. There does not seem to be an official document that does this, but we know from documentary evidence—“Macapagal: the Incorruptible” by Quentin Reynolds and Geoffrey Bocca (1965, p.5)—that President Jose P. Laurel’s portrait was already displayed in Malacañan Palace among the portraits of other presidents. Then again, when Aviles St. was renamed J.P. Laurel after the death of Laurel in 1959, it can be said that the public consensus has been to recognize Laurel’s wartime role as legitimate, too.

This brings us to the question of the 4th Republic: The convention in legal circles is it is a constitution that demarcates one regime from another. Setting aside the validity, or lack of it, of the ratification of the 1973 Constitution, there is the question of whether the Fourth Republic began in 1973 or 1981. In this situation it seems that President Marcos himself provides the guide. [He] issued Proclamation 1081 placing the country under Martial Law which he lifted on Jan. 17, 1981 and it was not until after he secured a “fresh mandate” that year that he proclaimed the birth of a “New Republic” on June 30, 1981.

It is well to remember that in the aftermath of the Edsa Revolution, there was actually a debate on what to do, legally-speaking, as far as the institutions Marcos had created were concerned. The school of thought that prevailed was that a revolutionary government should be proclaimed, the Marcos institutions abolished and a new constitution drafted and ratified.

President Corazon C. Aquino’s Proclamation No. 3, s. 1986, proclaimed a revolutionary government and adopted some provisions of the much-amended 1973 Constitution as part of the promulgated, transitory 1986 Freedom Constitution. A Constitutional Commission was appointed in 1986, whose work was ratified on Feb. 11, 1987, after the canvassing of votes cast in a national plebiscite.

That the 1987 Constitution did not explicitly state the creation of a Fifth Republic is answered by referring to the Constitution itself. Under Article 18, Section 1 …, a new regime is clearly reflected in the establishment of the first Congress “under this Constitution.” In fact, Section 20 goes as far as to use the phrase “first Congress.”


The leaders of the restored bicameral legislature—Senate President Jovito Salonga and House Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr.—were both senators in the 7th Congress. Somehow, they both decided to resume the count from what was then called the “old Congress,” in which they had both served. Thus, the Congress that assembled in 1987, though Constitutionally regarded as the first Congress under the 5th Republic, was called the 8th Congress, resuming the count of congresses and laws from the last pre-Martial Law Congress abolished in 1972 …

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