Framer of 1987 Constitution favors economic amendments

By Jose Cielito Reganit

February 27, 2024, 9:29 pm Updated on February 27, 2024, 9:30 pm

<p>Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna (File photo)

MANILA – Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, is in favor of amending the economic provisions of the constitution.

Azcuna, who was the vice chair of the legislative committee of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the Constitution in 1986, said he hopes the charter would be finally amended “to be responsive to the fast-changing economic condition of the day.”

“Economic provisions should be flexible and they should not be cast in stone, and 37 years is casting in stone. The economic provisions must be responsive to changing economic conditions,” he said at the hearing of the Committee of the Whole on RHB 7 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Tuesday.

“Therefore, I believe that we should change the provisions to make them flexible by legislation by simply adding an amendment unless otherwise provided by law,” he said.

Azcuna further said adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Articles 12, 14, and 16 makes the amendment “changeable by legislation,” which he believes is “the best solution” to the economic provisions’ restriction.

He also noted that there is an existing safeguard against the Senate or the House adding other proposed amendments, particularly those that are political in nature.

“[The Constitutional amendment] is limited by the very form of their proposed resolution, which is in the form of a joint resolution of both Houses, and it is subjected to the cardinal rule of one subject matter only that must be expressed in that title. So political matters are not covered because they are not in the subject matter stated in the title. So that is the safeguard,” he said.

Constitutional challenges

In a press conference alsoi on Tuesday, 1-RIDER Party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez expressed optimism about the readiness of the House to confront constitutional challenges in amending the economic provisions.

"I would say there is no other way but to risk it because any method that we take for constitutional change is actually subject to a constitutional challenge," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez was responding to a statement earlier made by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who cautioned that the inclusion of the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" in the economic provisions could potentially face scrutiny and be susceptible to a constitutional challenge.

Puno was among the invited resource persons at the hearing of the Committee of the Whole convened to address RBH 7.

This measure mirrors a similar proposal being deliberated in the Senate, aiming to amend certain economic provisions in the charter concerning public services, education, and advertising.

Gutierrez pointed out that even if certain phrases were amended based on advice from the retired chief magistrate, the absence of specific provisions could still lead to inadvertent challenges.

He further noted that by virtue of “mere inadvertence,” anything that Congress will do, whether it’s in the House or in the Senate, there will always be the possibility of a constitutional challenge.

“The question before us now as lawmakers, itutuloy pa po ba natin ito kung alam natin na matsa-challenge ito (will we continue with this even if we knew that it will be challenged)? Of course, because precisely, we are advocating for this change. We have no choice but to move forward,” he said.

But despite the anticipated legal challenges, Gutierrez expressed confidence in the judiciary's ability to fairly adjudicate these matters.

“We will leave it to the Supreme Court, which has proper jurisdiction on this, and we trust in their good judgment to make the right decisions," he said, while underscoring the ultimate authority of the people in the decision-making process.

“At the end of the day, plebiscite ang (is the) determining factor. It is the sovereign will of the people that will be followed," Gutierrez said. (with a report from Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)