Changing the Constitution: Con-Con vs. Con-Ass vs. PI

Changing the Constitution: Con-Con vs. Con-Ass vs. PI

There are three methods by which amendments or revisions to the constitution may be proposed as mentioned in Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. These are the Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly, and People’s Initiative.

Also known as a constitutional reform or charter change, an amendment or revision to the constitution would change the fundamental principles that constitute the supreme law of the Philippines to insert new principles or alter the existing structure of the constitution altogether.

Nevertheless, any proposed amendments or revisions to the constitution as coursed through either one of the three methods mentioned above must be ratified by the majority of Filipinos in a plebiscite or national referendum.

Charter Change Basics: The Difference Between Amendment and Revision

Note that amendments technically refer to the changes that do not affect the overall structure of the constitution. On the other hand, revisions involve changing the structure.

A prime example of an amendment would be an expansion or redefinition of specific constitutional provisions. In the case of revision, a prime example would be altering the structure of the government.

Constitutional Convention vs. Constituent Assembly vs. People’s Initiative: What Are The Differences?

1. Constitutional Convention

A Constitutional Convention or Con-Con involves the Congress of the Philippines made of the House of Representatives and the Senate calling the formation of a group of delegates that would propose amendments or revisions to the constitution.

The 1987 Constitution, under Article XVII, Section 1, provided that the Congress may call a Constitutional Convention by a vote of two-thirds or by a majority vote of all of its members. However, it does not specify how delegates of the con-con would be chosen, nor does it provide details of the entire process of forming a convention.

Previous administrations prior to the current constitution tackled Con-Con in different ways. In 1970, public voting of delegates formed the 1970 Constitutional Convention that established the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The current 1987 Constitution was written through the 1987 Constitutional Commission made of delegates appointed by then President Corazon Aquino.

2. Constituent Assembly

Another method of charter change is through a Constituent Assembly or Con-Ass. The Congress can convene into an assembly through the vote of three-fourths of all of its members from the House of Representatives and the Senate as noted in Article XVII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

The Con-Ass would thereby be made of lawmakers, particularly of legislative district representatives, party-list representatives, and senators. This assembly can propose amendments or revisions to the constitutions.

However, the 1987 Constitution did not mention how the Congress should vote or more specifically, if it should vote as a single body or as separate houses. It is also worth mentioning that the constitution does not explicitly use the term “Constituent Assembly.”

3. People’s Initiative

Under Article XVII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, the public can directly propose amendments or revisions through an initiative. This method has been called the People’s Initiative or PI.

To propose amendments to the constitution through PI, Article XVII, Section 2 explained that a petition should be made by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters in the country. The same constitutional provision also noted that every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent of the registered voters therein.

People’s initiative is a little bit restricted. Amendments through this method can only be made once every five years. Nevertheless, as stated in Article XVII, Section 2, the Congress has the responsibility of implementing the exercise of PI.

The Congress responded with the passage of Republic Act No. 6735 in 1989. It defines and explains the power of the people under a system of initiative and referendum to directly propose, enact, approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws, ordinances, or resolutions

In A Nutshell: The Differences Between Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly, and People’s Initiative

Based on the definitions and discussions above, Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly, and People’s Initiative are three methods for implementing a charter change or more specifically, for proposing amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines.

Con-Con is a body of delegates from different backgrounds given the task of proposing and evaluating amendments or revisions to the constitutions while the Con-Ass is a body made of existing lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

On the other hand, PI is a specific right of the voting public to propose amendments to the constitution through a petition coursed through the Commission on Elections.

Any amendments or revisions to the constitution emerging from any of the three methods must be ratified by the majority of Filipinos in a plebiscite or national referendum.

It is also worth mentioning that there is no best way to amend or revise the constitution. Each of the three methods has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, Con-Con could produce a body of new framers made of people with different expertise, while Con-Ass has been argued to be more inexpensive and faster.

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