Constitutional Law, Political Law

Amendments or Revisions of the Constitution: Cases and Bar Q & A

ARTICLE XVII

SECTION 1. 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.

SECTION 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized withinfivve years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.

The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.

SECTION 3. The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

SECTION 4. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.

Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition.

[Lambino v. COMELEC  G.R. No. 174153 October 25, 2006]

Article XVII of the Constitution speaks of three modes of amending the Constitution. 

*The first mode is through Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its Members. 

*The second mode is through a constitutional convention. The third mode is through a people’s initiative.

A people’s initiative to change the Constitution applies only to an amendment of the Constitution and not to its revision. In contrast, Congress or a constitutional convention can propose both amendments and revisions to the Constitution.

In this jurisdiction there can be no dispute that a people’s initiative can only propose amendments to the Constitution since the Constitution itself limits initiatives to amendments. There can be no deviation from the constitutionally prescribed modes of revising the Constitution.

Amendment v. Revision

REVISION broadly implies a change that alters a basic principle in the constitution, like altering the principle of separation of powers or the system of checks-and-balances. 

***There is also revision if the change alters the substantial entirety of the constitution, as when the change affects substantial provisions of the constitution. 

On the other hand, AMENDMENT broadly refers to a change that adds, reduces, or deletes without altering the basic principle involved. Revision generally affects several provisions of the constitution, while amendment generally affects only the specific provision being amended.

QUANTITATIVE TEST & QUALITATIVE TEST

In California where the initiative clause allows amendments but not revisions to the constitution just like in our Constitution, courts have developed a two-part test: the quantitative test and the qualitative test. 

The quantitative test asks whether the proposed change is “so extensive in its provisions as to change directly the ‘substantial entirety’ of the constitution by the deletion or alteration of numerous existing provisions.” The court examines only the number of provisions affected and does not consider the degree of the change.

The qualitative test inquires into the qualitative effects of the proposed change in the constitution. The main inquiry is whether the change will “accomplish such far reaching changes in the nature of our basic governmental plan as to amount to a revision.” Whether there is an alteration in the structure of government is a proper subject of inquiry. Thus, “a change in the nature of [the] basic governmental plan” includes “change in its fundamental framework or the fundamental powers of its Branches.” 

A change in the nature of the basic governmental plan also includes changes that “jeopardize the traditional form of government and the system of check and balances.”

[Tolentino v. COMELEC G.R. No. L-34150 October 16, 1971]

The Court holds that there is, and it is the condition and limitation that all the amendments to be proposed by the same Convention must be submitted to the people in a single “election” or plebiscite.

The language of the constitutional provision aforequoted is sufficiently clear. lt says distinctly that either Congress sitting as a constituent assembly or a convention called for the purpose “may propose amendments to this Constitution,” thus placing no limit as to the number of amendments that Congress or the Convention may propose. The same provision also as definitely provides that “such amendments shall be valid as part of this Constitution when approved by a majority of the votes cast at an election at which the amendments are submitted to the people for their ratification,” thus leaving no room for doubt as to how many “elections” or plebiscites may be held to ratify any amendment or amendments proposed by the same constituent assembly of Congress or convention, and the provision unequivocably says “an election” which means only one.

2018 Notes and Cases POLITICAL LAW AND PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW Atty. EDWIN REY SANDOVAL 

AMENDMENTS OR REVISION (Article XVII, 1987 Constitution) 

Ways of Proposing Amendments or Revision 

First: Congress may directly propose amendments or revision by three-fourths (3/4) vote of all its members. In such a case, Congress will not be acting as a legislative body but rather, as a constituent assembly – a non-legislative function of Congress. 

Second: through a Constitutional Convention. A constitutional convention is a body separate and distinct from that of the Congress itself whose members shall be elected by the people of their respective districts. 

Third: through People’s Initiative. 

People’s initiative on the Constitution is done through a petition, but the petition will have to be signed by at least twelve (12) per cent of the total number of registered voters provided that in each legislative district, at least three (3) per cent of the registered voters therein shall sign the petition. 

The provisions of R.A. No 6735 (The Initiative and Referendum Law) dealing with initiative on the constitution implements people’s initiative on the Constitution under Section 2, Article XVII, 1987 Constitution. 

Ratification 

Any proposed amendment or revision of the Constitution will have to be submitted to the people in a plebiscite to be ratified by majority of the voters.

2017 Bar

I.

A priority thrust of the Administration is the change of the form of government from unitary to federal. The change can be effected only through constitutional amendment or revision.

(a) What are the methods of amending the Constitution? Explain briefly each method. (3%) 

SUGGESTED ANSWER 

The Constitution may be amended or revised by the vote of at least three-fourths of all the Members of Congress, acting as a Constituent Assembly, by way of a proposal(Article XVII, Sec. (1) of the 1987 Constitution). 

Any amendment or revision under this provision shall be valid upon ratification by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days or later than 90 days after the approval of the amendment or revision (Article XVII, Sec, 4 of the 1987 Constitution). 

The Constitution may also be amended or revised by a Constitutional Convention. Congress may, by the vote of at least two thirds of all its members, call a Constitutional Convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members subject to the electorate the calling of a Constitutional Convention (Article XVII, Sec. 3 of the 1987 Constitution). Any amendment or revision under this provision shall be valid in the same manner as in Article XVII, Sec. 1(1) of the 1987 Constitution.

Amendments to the Constitution may be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon petition of at least 12% of the registered voters, and at least 3% of the registered voters in every legislative district must be represented. (Article XVII, Sec. 2 of the 1987 Constitution). 

The people cannot propose revisions and may propose only amendments. The petition must be signed by the required number of people, and the full text of the proposed amendments must be embodied in the petition (Lambino v. COMELEC, GR Nos 174153 & 174299, October 25, 2006, 503 SCRA 165). 

Any amendment under Article XVII, See 2 of the 1987 Constitution, shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition.(Article XVII, Sec. 4 of the 1987 Constitution). 

(b) Cite at least three provisions of the Constitution that need to be amended or revised to effect the change from unitary to federal, and briefly explain why? (3%) 

SUGGESTED ANSWER : 

(b) Examples of provisions that need to be amended or revised to effect the Unitary to federal:

1. Article X, Sec. 3 Must be omitted because the legislature will no longer define the scope of the powers of the government.

2. Article X Sec, 4 will have to be omitted. The President will no longer have the power of supervision over local governments. 

3. Article X, Sec.5 must be omitted. Congress will no longer be allowed to impose limitations on the power of taxation of local governments.

[Note: The panel wishes to recommend liberality in favor of the examinee for this question, as answers can be gleaned from many articles and provisions of the Constitution, among them Articles VI, VII, and X].

2019 Bar

2014 Bar

I.

With the passage of time, the members of the House of Representatives increased with the creation of new legislative districts and the corresponding adjustments in the number of party-list representatives. At a time when the House membership was already 290, a great number of the members decided that it was time to propose amendments to the Constitution. The Senators, however, were cool to the idea. But the members of the House insisted. They accordingly convened Congress into a constituent assembly in spite of the opposition of the majority of the members of the Senate. When the votes were counted, 275 members of the House of Representatives approved the proposed amendments. Only 10 Senators supported such proposals. The proponents now claim that the proposals were validly made, since more than the required three-fourth’s vote of Congress has been obtained. The 14 Senators who voted against the proposals claim that the proposals needed not three-fourths vote of the entire Congress but each house. Since the required number of votes in the Senate was not obtained, then there could be no valid proposals, so argued the Senators. 

Were the proposals validly adopted by Congress? (5%) 

SUGGESTED ANSWER

The proposals were not validly adopted, because the ten (10) Senators who voted in favor of the proposed amendments constituted less than three-fourths of all the Members of the Senate. Although Section 1, Article XVII of the Constitution did not expressly provide that the Senate and the House of Representatives must vote separately, when the Legislature consists of two (2) houses, the determination of one house is to be submitted to the separate determination of the other house (Miller v. Mardo, G.R. No, L-15138, July 31, 1961, 2 SCRA-898). 

II.

Several citizens, unhappy with the proliferation of fami lies dominating the political landscape, decided to take matters into their own hands, They proposed to come up with a people’s initiative defining political dynasties. They started a signature campaign for the purpose of coming up with a petition for that purpose. Some others expressed misgivings about a people’s initiative for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution, however. They cited the Court’s decision in Santiago v. Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 127325, June 10, 1997, 270 SCRA 106), as authority for their position that there is yet no enabling law for such purpose. On the other hand, there are also those who claim that the individual votes of the justices in Lambino v. Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 174153; 1. October 25, 2006, 505 SCRA 160); mean that Santiago’s: pronouncement has effectively been abandoned. :: 

If you were consulted by those behind the new attempt at a people’s initiative, how would you advise them? (4%). 

SUGGESTED ANSWER: 

I shall advise those starting a people’s initiative that initiative to pass a law defining political dynasties may proceed as their proposal is to enact a law only and not to amend the Constitution. The decision in Santiago v. Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 127325, June 10, 1997., 270 SCRA 106); which has not been reversed, upheld the adequacy of the provisions in Republic Act 6735 on initiative to enact a law.

ALTERNATIVE ANSWER: 

I shall advise those starting a people’s initiative that the ruling in Santiago v. Commission on Elections that there is as yet no enabling law for an initiative has not been reversed. According to Section 4 (3), Article VIII of the Constitution, a doctrine of law laid down in a decision rendered by the Supreme Court en banc may not be reversed except by it acting en banc. The majority opinion in Lambino v. COMELEC 74153, October 25, 2006, 505 SCRA 160), refused to re-examine the ruling in Santiago De Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997, 270 SCRA 106), because it was not necessary for deciding the case. The Justices who voted to reverse the ruling constituted the minority. 

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