Gripes vs. the Senate

Posted by watchmen
February 26, 2024


By Ade S. Fajardo

The Constitution may be amended through a proposal made directly by the people in accordance with Article 17, Section 2.

If the proponents of charter change want to change only one provision by clarifying that the deciding vote in a constituent assembly is three-fourths of all the members of Congress “voting jointly,” does that qualify as an amendment that may be directly proposed by the people?

Voting jointly — surely, intercalating these two words can be nothing more than an amendment?



A revision, on the other hand, may be proposed only by two bodies — a constitutional convention, or the House of Representatives and the Senate acting as a constituent assembly.

This is clear from both language and intent of the Constitution.

A revision may not be done through people’s initiative.

What is a revision therefore as distinguished from a mere amendment?



The Supreme Court distinguishes them simply: generally, a revision affects several provisions of the Constitution while an amendment affects only the particular provision being amended.

There are other indicia. Revision implies a change that alters a basic principle in the Constitution such as separation of powers or the system of checks and balances.



Changing the voting in the constituent assembly, from bicameral (Senate and House voting separately) to unicameral (Senate and House voting jointly), is said to be a fundamental alteration because it shakes the balance of power between the two houses, and is massively discriminatory against the Senate.

It therefore entails a revision not just an amendment even though the proposal would introduce only a couple of words into the current text of the Constitution.



This was anticipated in Justice Antonio Carpio’s ponencia written 18 years ago during the reign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

According to Justice Carpio, a change in a single word or sentence in the constitution may still be a revision and not a mere amendment if it radically overhauls the entire structure of government.

For example, changing the word “republican” in Article II, Section 1 to “monarchic” revamps the “fundamental ideological basis” of the constitution and is therefore a revision and not a mere amendment.



Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno had an opposing opinion. He said that when the framers of the 1987 Constitution used the word “revision,” they had in mind the rewriting or overhaul of the whole Constitution.

Anything less is just an amendment or a change of specific provisions and may be proposed directly by the people through an initiative.

At least four other justices joined Justice Puno in his dissenting opinion.



Points against the Senate are being articulated.

The so-called conscience of the nation is now peopled with dynasties, reflecting a concentration of power in a handful of dynastic families.

Aspirants are greeted with other insurmountable barriers. Nationwide name recall is difficult to attain unless one has media or showbusiness savvy — not really the most ideal core of qualifications for the highest council of “wise old men.”

Does the Senate continue to function as an effective check against the House and the other branches of government?/WDJ

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