33 facts about Article XVII on Amendments & Revisions

THE LAW: ARTICLE XVII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION ON AMENDMENTS AND REVISIONS

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 within five 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.

NOTES:/forMJ

[1] A change in Constitution must be done constitutionally. Otherwise, it is void.

[2] Changes may be in the nature of an amendment or a revision.

[3] An amendment changes words or details in the Constitution without altering the basic principles, policies or structure of government and without making a "substantial" change to the document (such as the addition or omission of rights).

[4] In other words, an amendment is a mere formal change such as altering the terms used or increasing or decreasing numeral figures (from 24 senators to 26, etc.).

[5] However, [4] is not the test. The Supreme Court has used two (2) tests: the qualitative test and the quantitative test.

[6] In a nutshell, the qualitative test looks into the quality or nature of the change. Does it alter the basic principles, basic policies or basic structure of government? If yes, then there is revision.

[7] Hence, even if it is a simple change in the tenure of the President from 6 years to 100 years (a mere change in the numeral figure), this can be considered a revision because it affects the republican nature of the State.

[8] On the other hand, the quantitative test looks into the number of changes sought to be made. The more provisions are affected, the higher the likelihood of the changes being in the nature of a revision. The fewer provisions are affected, the higher the chance of them being in the nature of an amendment.

[9] Note that both tests must be applied to determine whether the change is an amendment or a revision. The final arbiter of whether this or that is the Supreme Court.

[10] Assuming the Congress converts itself into a constituent assembly (con-ass) upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, it, as a con-ass can propose any kind of change to the Constitution (both amendments or revisions).

[11] After drafting proposals, the con-ass must end the session then submit the proposals to the people for ratification. There can be no submission for ratification of piecemeal amendments. (Tolentino vs. COMELEC) In other words, the con-ass, while in session, cannot submit proposals one by one. All proposals must be submitted to the people.

[12] DOCTRINE OF PROPER SUBMISSION: All the proposed amendments shall be presented to the people for the ratification or rejection at the same time, not piecemeal. All the amendments must be submitted for ratification at one plebiscite only to give them a proper frame of reference in arriving at their decision. 

The plebiscite may be held on the same day as a regular election provided the people are sufficiently informed of the amendments to be voted upon, to conscientiously deliberate thereon, to express their will in a genuine manner.

[13] The COMELEC shall organize and conduct the plebiscite. From the day of approval of the con-ass' proposed amendment/s or revision/s, the people are given 60 days to think about whether to vote yes or no. Hence, the plebiscite shall shall be held not earlier than 60 days from such approval. However, it cannot be held too late as well which means not later than 90 days from such approval.

[14] If "yes" gets at least a majority (50%+1) of the votes cast, the COMELEC shall declare the amendment/s or revision/s ratified.

[15] If "no" gets at least a majority (50%+1) of the votes cast, the COMELEC shall declare the amendment/s or revision/s rejected.

[16] Almost the same rules as discussed above apply to constitutional conventions (con-con). However, compared with con-ass, con-con is not done by Congress itself. It is "called."
[17] A con-con may be called either via congressional vote or via submission to the electorate. If via congressional vote, Congress may call a con-con by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members. If through the other way, Congress may call a con-con by a majority vote of all its Members and submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

[19] A con-con called via congressional vote is easy to understand. Here is Congress, supported by two-thirds (2/3) of its Members) saying, "Hey, people, let's call delegates from every part of the country so they can convene and propose amendments to or revisions of the Constitution."

[20] If successful, a calling for con-con via congressional vote will result in an election of delegates from different parts of the country who shall convene and draft proposed changes. This is what happened in 1986. After drafting, the con-con shall end its session and comply with the doctrine of proper submission until the draft is ratified by the people as discussed above.

[21] On the other hand, a con-con via submission to the electorate is quite complicated. In this case, here is Congress saying, "I cannot decide whether or not to call a con-con so let's ask the people by making them cast their votes on whether or not to call a con-con."

[22] If successful, a calling for con-con via submission to the electorate will result in a plebiscite where the people with cast yes and no votes. "Yes" means they want to call a con-con. "No" means they do not.

[23] If "yes" gets a majority (50%+1) of the votes, a con-con will be called. An election of delegates will proceed. These delegates will convene. They will draft proposals to change (whether to amend or to revise). They will properly submit the draft to the people for ratification.

[24] If "no" wins, a con-con will not be called.

[25] Moving on to people's initiative, the most notable difference is that this method is limited to amendments. In short, people's initiative cannot revise the Constitution.

[26] People's initiative must be exercised in accordance with law. This means that law should provide for the exercise of this right. "The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right." (Section 2, second paragraph) Without an implementing or enabling law, people's initiative cannot be prosper. (Santiago vs. COMELEC)

[27] Assuming a law exists to enable this right, people's initiative must be done through a "petition" with the COMELEC. This is what happened in 1997 in the case of Santiago vs. COMELEC.

[28] Even if law provides for the implementation of this right (people's initiative), minimum constitutional requirements must not be overlooked. Three (3) numbers must be kept in mind: "12," "3" and "5."

[29] Via people's initiative, the petition must be supported by at least 12% of all registered voters. Not only this but also 3% of the registered voters in every legislative district must support the petition. In short, nationally, 12% must support; "district-ly," 3% must support. Otherwise, the petition will fail.

[30] The other rule is the 5-year ban. In case an amendment is proposed and ratified via people's initiative, the same cannot be done within 5 years from the last ratification.

[31] Note that the 5-year ban does not apply to con-ass and con-con. Changes, whether amendments or revisions, can be done every day (hyperbole) in so far as these two (2) methods are concerned.

[32] As to submission to the people and ratification, rules are the same between people's initiative, on one hand, and, on the other, con-ass and con-con.

[33] You have just fully understood the law on amendments and revisions under Article XVII. /forMJ

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